How can the aviation industry adopt cleaner and greener fuel?

Centre for Aviation, Transport and the Environment academics part of NewJet Network+ research consortium

Emissions experts from Manchester Metropolitan University are part of a new research consortium, NewJet Network+, that will tackle climate change by investigating the barriers and benefits to the UK aviation industry adopting low carbon synthetic fuel.

Emissions experts from Manchester Metropolitan University are part of a new research consortium, NewJet Network+, that will tackle climate change by investigating the barriers and benefits to the UK aviation industry adopting low carbon synthetic fuel.

Emissions experts from Manchester Metropolitan University are part of a new research consortium that will tackle climate change by investigating the barriers and benefits to the UK aviation industry adopting low carbon synthetic fuel.

The NewJet Network+ is one of five new groups announced by the Government looking at ways of removing the obstacles and addressing the challenges of decarbonising transport in the UK.

Supported with £5 million of funding, the networks will bring together expertise from across academia and industry to lay the groundwork for the rolling out of more eco-friendly technologies across road, rail, air and sea transport.

Building on existing networks

David Raper, Professor of Environmental Science and Director of Manchester Metropolitan University's Centre for Aviation, Transport and the Environment (CATE), said: “The NewJet Network+ will build on the existing networks working on the sustainability of aviation and bringing together the rich expertise that the UK has in these areas, linking into the existing networks such as ICAO-CAEP (the International Civil Aviation Organization's Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection); the UK Aviation Fuels Committee Meeting; American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM); ECATS International Association, an association of European researchers working in the field of aviation and environmental impact, and Supergen, a programme to deliver sustained and coordinated research on sustainable power generation and supply.

“Manchester Metropolitan University will have responsibility for investigating the impact of aviation fuel composition on emissions and corresponding impact on local air quality and climate.”

Focus on fuel specification

CATE colleague Dr Simon Christie, Research Fellow and Manchester Metropolitan's lead academic for the NewJet+ Network, added: “The focus of the network is on the aviation fuel specification and whether it can still be considered 'fit for purpose' after nearly 50 years. Altering it even slightly could bring significant benefits.

“There are strong parallels with automotive and the EU Fuel Quality Directive as aviation fuel is not yet constrained by such directives.”

Low carbon fuel crucial for industry's future

Partnering Manchester Metropolitan University in the NewJet+ Network are lead research organisation the University of Birmingham as well as the University of Sheffield, Aston University, Cardiff University and Heriot-Watt University, along with Air BP, the Department for Transport, and Renovare Fuels Ltd.

Aviation and aerospace contribute more than £22bn a year to the UK economy and adopting low carbon technologies, particularly low carbon synthetic fuel, is recognised as crucial to the future of the industry.

The network will explore the barriers to adopting these new fuels, such as stakeholder confidence and infrastructure, as well as the benefits, including reducing CO2 and importantly the non-CO2 emissions performance, which also contribute to the environmental impact of aviation.

The project will also explore the potential for broadening the fuel specification to reduce the environmental impact of producing these fuels, and will study the behaviour and performance of the cleaner, greener fuel in flight.

Consortium won £1million funding

Simon Blakey, NewJet+ Project Lead at the University of Birmingham, explained: “Many synthetic fuels are produced to mirror closely the properties and performance of traditional petroleum-based fuels and they could offer huge benefits to the industry if this restriction were able to be relaxed. Clearly there are challenges to adopting these new products and we need to understand these before the UK is able to deliver a low carbon future for the industry.”

The NewJet Network+ will begin its activities in November and will run until 2022. Approximately two-thirds of the £1million funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, will be used to fund smaller flexible research projects.

Announcing the new networks, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Bringing together some of the brightest minds from all corners of the UK, these transport networks will boost the development of technologies that have the potential to clean up our transport systems – so we can cycle, drive and even fly into a greener future.”

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