karlstad-airport“The key to reducing the environmental impact of aviation is not to focus on carbon emission offsets but is instead to develop commercially viable biofuels,” says Peter Landmark, President of Karlstad Airport.

“It is now entirely possible to eco-fly. In June 2014, we opened Europe’s first airport-based biofuel filling station and flew our first scheduled flight. By 2015, all planes taking off from Karlstad will be able to run on biofuel.”

More flights – less environmental impact

The transport sector accounts for approximately 27 percent of global carbon emissions with an aviation industry share of between 2-3 percent. The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) target is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050, based on 2005 levels.

“More efficient engines and modified flight patterns will contribute to reducing climate impact. More importantly, bio-based jet fuels will help achieve environmental objectives,” says Jan-Olov Bergling, head of the Swedish airline industry association. “Such concrete measures are vital as aviation is expected to be one of the fastest growing means of transport with an annual growth rate of three percent.”

Forests can help with biofuels

The new jet fuel is produced from biological raw materials, including algae and waste from industrial processes. Surrounded by forests, Karlstad, in the province of Värmland, is a hub of the forest industry. Investigations are ongoing to produce biofuel from nearby forest industry waste products.

Currently, there are two approved technologies for producing aviation biofuel. And engine manufacturers are expected to approve more. Several national and international research projects are investigating the use of new materials to produce bio-jet fuel. In practice, biofuels are a 50-50 blend with fossil fuel.

Carbon Fund contributes to development

Currently bio-jet fuel is three to four times more expensive than ordinary aviation fuel, a barrier for the airline industry. Producers are few and there is no continuous production of biomass in large volumes.

To speed up development Karlstad Airport – together with the Dutch company SkyNRG and Statoil Fuel & Retail – has initiated an economic solution in the form of a fund for climate compensation. The fund will initially cover the cost difference between ordinary aviation and bio-based fuels. In the long term, the fund will support research and businesses, and help public bodies and individuals to contribute to carbon offsetting.

“Karlstad Airport is a fully functional and scalable model of the eco-friendly airport with all the processes in-place to allow sustainable flight. There is a lot of interest in the Karlstad initiatives from national bodies, countries, airports, and not least from the EU,” concludes Berglin.

This article was published in October 2014