The British government is seeking to make the UK greener. In fact, the goal is to become a zero-emission zone by 2040. To that end, the government is looking at all areas of waste production, and in particular, the issues of fuel and waste. So, what if waste and fuel could solve each other’s problems?
Enter biofuel – the answer to the problems with environmentally-unfriendly fuels and the rising cost of dealing with the UK’s waste. With biofuel, waste matter can be used to create a greener fuel alternative and it’s already being used on some commercial flights. So where does biofuel stand when it comes to freight transport fuel?
We are teaming up with waste management specialists Reconomy, who offer a range of skip hire services to help handle waste, to see how waste will benefit the future of travel.
The government plans to invest £22 million in the development and creation of five new low-carbon fuel plants that will hopefully serve as a catalyst for a big change to waste management. The Department of Transport has noted that planes and lorries could potentially use up to 90% less carbon by using waste to fuel them instead of fossil fuels.
On top of this, new biofuel targets came into effect in April this year, which requires UK transport sectors, particularly hauliers and airlines, to double their use of renewable fuel within the next 15 years.
Government Business reported that the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) wants every car and van to be a zero-emission vehicle by 2050. But how much progress is already being made for road transport vehicles? After all, HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) contribute 22% of surface transport emissions. Reducing this would make a huge impact on the overall emissions of the UK.
A fair amount, by all accounts – the London Borough of Hackney is already using cooking oil to fuel its freight vehicles. And in Reading, a bus fleet is being run on biomethane and compressed, natural gas. The government has also seen 300 natural gas HGVs head to the roads.
Plus, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is managing the Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS), which is a voluntary initiative to record the reduction of carbon emissions by freight transport. The aim is to offer both reporting on reduced emissions, and to show the government that the freight industry can reduce emissions without regulations.
Both the road freight and air freight sectors have been set a target by the government to make sure they use fuel that is 12.4% biofuel by 2032. Currently, the target is 4.75% biofuel, so this is a substantial increase.
The aerospace industry has already made progress on the use of biofuels. Velocys is working alongside British Airways, for example, to push the idea of waste as renewable jet fuel. The investment is expected to be announced by 2019. A waste plant is expected to be created and will bring in hundreds of thousands of waste produce in every year, which will be turned into fuel that can later see our planes get off the ground in a cleaner way. Compared to traditional jet fuel, this would reduce greenhouse gases by 60% and particulate matter by 90%.
British Airways aren’t the only airline looking into biofuel. United Airlines in America is using biofuels from household and agricultural waste, using around 30% biofuel in its fuel mix. This will see a reduction of a whopping 60% on a lifecycle basis, in comparison to fossil fuel based jet fuel.
In China, Hainan Airlines took a 12.5-hour flight from Beijing to Chicago using 15% biofuel to 85% conventional jet fuel. The cooking oils used included vegetable oils and animal fats, which were taken from restaurants.
If a 12.5-hour long flight can be fuelled in such a way, what about a 19-hour non-stop flight? Singapore Airlines have announced that they will be embarking on the longest commercial flight in October, setting out from Singapore to New York in a non-stop flight using the new Airbus A350-900ULR. The service had been offered previously but was pulled in 2013 due to high fuel costs.
Singapore Airlines have previously run a series of biofuel flights using the Airbus A350-900 on non-stop flights between Singapore and San Francisco. Cooking oil waste was used as part of the biofuel for this flight. It remains to be seen if the new Airbus will be fuelled with a biofuel mix for its record-breaking journey.
Land, Sea & Air Magazine says that the shipping sector is the last of the major transport sections to consider biofuel. But the incentives to adopt biofuel are certainly there – the magazine reports that the Environmental Ship Index (ESI) has been implemented by around 40 ports across the globe. This index looks at the emissions of a ship and gives a reduction in port dues for those vessels that meet the targets.
Biofuels are looking more enticing for vessels too, as the use of them requires relatively little change – blending biofuel to fossil fuels means that everything can continue pretty much as it was. No changes to the ships are needed, saving time and money.
Plus, the magazine notes that biofuels produce less ‘sludge’ than its fossil fuel counterparts, meaning the engine maintenance frequency will drop.