Monday, June 2, 2008
Airlines need only replace their aging aircraft with more modern equipment in order to achieve a 20 percent reduction in emissions, according to Embraer’s Director, Strategies and Technologies for the Environment Graciliano Campos. Other emissions reduction programs, he said, include more efficient aircraft routings and continuous descent approaches that could gain at least another 12 percent reduction. Modernizing air traffic management would result in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in emissions, according to the Air Transport Association (ATA).
Soaring fuel costs have already forced American to accelerate plans to rid its fleet of MD-80s and A300s while other airlines are following suit. But, even as network carriers are reducing capacity and grounding older planes, the low-cost carriers have increased capacity filling the void created as the networks try to address the over-capacity problem.
Meanwhile, narrow-body replacements received a blow last week given Boeing’s announcement that it would not pursue a 737 replacement until it can get a leap in technology that make re-equipage worthwhile. Related Story Boeing’s announcement also puts into question Airbus’s plans for replacing ASOX, A320 replacement program. Boeing officials said that the new imperative will be in fundamental research in aerodynamics, composites and advanced hybrid alloys.
The announcement was music to Bombardier’s and Embraer’s ears because it could pave the way for their products and, perhaps, such long-shot products as Mitsubishi’s MRJ and the 78- and 98-seat Sukhoi Superjets, now delayed but originally due on the market next year. Sukhoi also has a larger 100+-seat version on the drawing boards. The SSJ95 boasts a 14 percent improvement on emissions on its nearest, albeit unnamed, competitors as well as a relative 10 percent direct operating costs improvement on its competitors. However, not only is it an untested manufacturer and aircraft, it is also saddled with an untested engine, despite its boasts of fewer parts.
For its part, Bombardier is proposing the C-Series as a single-aisle, 110- to 149-seat replacement and Embraer is plugging the ERJ 190/195 for both aircraft replacement and what it calls right-sizing aircraft to markets, already being done successfully by Finnair, Air Canada and US Airways. Related Story
Pundits have been skeptical of both the Bombardier and Embraer aircraft as narrow-body replacements given the history of unsuccessful programs produced by such traditional regional aircraft manufacturers as Fokker and British Aerospace. They worried the success of C-Series and larger Embraer aircraft presumes Boeing will not do a replacement. Even Embraer suggested that it wouldn’t want to enter the Boeing/Airbus fray as Bombardier is doing. But, given the lethal combination of aged aircraft liberally peppering the network fleet and rising fuel costs their time may be at hand – if the network carriers order the C Series due on the market in 2013.
Boeing’s announcement seems to indicate the market is waiting for that technological leap, making the two manufacturer’s programs questionable for anything more than a bridge to future generation equipment. If past is prologue, then legacies will hunker down as they did in the post-9/11 period.
Arguments for Replacement
Still, Embraer’s arguments seem powerful for the smaller aircraft, especially since it can offer positions sooner than 2013.
“As for older narrow-bodies, the E190/195 can offer up to $2.1 million yearly fuel savings and up to $1.2 million maintenance cost savings over the 717, F100, 737-300 & -500, DC 9-30 and the MD-87,” said Embrear Executive Vice President Commercial Aviation Mauro Kern “The E170/175 can offer up to $1.8 million yearly fuel savings and up to $1.2 million maintenance cost savings over such aircraft as the Avro RJ85, the BAe 146, the Fokker 70 and the DC 9-10. Replacing the old, smaller aircraft with the ERJ 195 is the equivalent of taking 2,100 medium-sized cars off the road annually and right sizing the A318, 737-700, A319, 737-300, MD-82 and DC9-50 is the equivalent of taking 3,000 medium-sized cars off the road annually.”
Kern indicated the vast majority of the 7,500 aircraft Embraer has forecast as needed over the next 20 years in the 30- to 120-seat range, will be larger aircraft. Included in the aircraft in immediate need of replacement is the 727, AN-24, TU-134 and YAK 40. Bombardier’s recently released forecast reflects the shift in demand to larger commercial aircraft with demand expected to reach 6,300 over the next 20 years in the 100- to 149-seat segment targeted by the company’s proposed CSeries expected to be launched later this year. It also forecast a need for approximately 6,100 in the 60- to 90-seat segment. Currently, there are 5,600 aircraft in service in that segment. Trung Ngo, vice president marketing and communications for the newly launched Bombardier Commercial Aircraft Company, indicated that, with no new offerings in the 100+-seat, single-aisle market, the CSeries will address the pent up demand in the market. Related Story
Kern indicated that aircraft replacement constitutes only seven percent of the European market, while aircraft acquisitions for new markets and right-sizing are about evenly split between 42 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Seventy five percent of aircraft acquisitions in Asia will go to developing new markets while direct replacements will be only 20 percent of the market. In North America, right sizing could take 51 percent of the aircraft acquisitions compared to eight percent for direct replacement and 27 percent to address natural growth.
Campos noted that aviation, and many other sectors, are in the single digits in their contributions to CO2 emissions. Aviation contributes only two percent while energy production is four percent and residential is eight percent. One of the largest contributors, and thus the one with the greatest potential to immediately reduce CO2 emissions, is the public electricity/heat at 35 percent.
The ATA testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that industry operational improvement and technological advancements have resulted in the U.S. airline industry representing just two percent of all greenhouse gases, as compared to 25 percent for the balance of the transportation sector, while the industry continues to push forward with even more environmentally friendly programs.
“Would you rather give up flying to save two percent of emissions or change light bulbs to cut 10 percent,” he asked. “We have to make these choices. If you give up flying you will have to build new railways, with its incumbent environmental impact of construction and the trains will require more energy with an expected increase in CO2 emissions.”
“Commercial aviation in the United States is demonstrably committed to protecting the environment,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May, who presented new data to the committee. “Over the past 30 years, we have improved our fuel efficiency by 110 percent, resulting in 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide savings – roughly equivalent to taking 18.7 million cars off the road each of those years. This is no small achievement, given that commercial aviation is essential to our economy and supports nearly nine percent of U.S. employment.”
The industry has achieved its record while demand for air transportation continues to increase. May illustrated how the growth of the U.S. economy is strongly influenced by the growth of the commercial aviation industry. In 2005 alone, the commercial aviation industry drove $1.1 trillion in economic activity, contributing 5.2 percent of U.S gross economic output. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics recently assessed that in 2006, 5.3 percent of the total value of international merchandise trade was shipped by air and that air shipments accounted for 32.4 percent of the value of all exports, more than any other transportation sector.
Campos parsed aviation’s contributions further, saying business aviation contributes less than 0.02 percent of total aviation CO2 emissions while commercial aviation flights with less than 100 seats are responsible for only nine percent. “The emissions contributions of the sectors in which we compete are very small,” said Campos, speaking of both the commercial and business sectors. “Today, in business aviation Embraer has a 16 percent market share on super mid size and constitutes only 12 percent of the entire business aviation market meaning its business aircraft are tenths of millionths of the total aviation emissions footprint.”
Aviation occupancy rate at more than 70 percent is more than double the rate for road and rail, he said, adding that reduction efforts for aviation hydrocarbon emissions over the last 40 years have reached 90 percent. Just in the past 15 years, the Nox generated by aircraft engines has been reduced 50 percent and fuel consumption per passenger mile has been reduced 70 percent. Finally, manufacturers, who have traditionally been focused on the environmental impact of noise, have produced aircraft that are 70 percent quieter. He noted that such new technologies as Pratt & Whitney’s Unducted Fan, while providing a reduction in CO2, is noisier, meaning there has to be a trade off between green house gasses (GHGs) and noise.
Eighty percent of aviation emissions come from aircraft flying over 1,000 kilometers, while only five percent of emissions come from flights on routes less than 400 kilometers; the turboprop arena, and 12.5 percent comes from flights between 500 and 1,000 kilometers. “If you add them up they constitute less than 20 percent of total aircraft emissions,” said Campos, who noted that inter-city rail service contributes only one percent of the CO2. The average aircraft fuel burn is 4.28 liters per passenger, per 100 kilometers compared to 5.3 liters per passenger, per 100 kilometers. Aircraft burns less fuel and is more efficient at 70 percent occupancy than the family car carrying only 1.7 passengers per kilometer on average. The ERJ 195 is 70 percent more efficient than the family car while the ERJ 170 is 40 percent, and the ERJ 145 is 20 percent more efficient than the average family car.”
He indicated that fuel costs and emissions will force major decisions including the fact that the politically unpopular idea of building more runways will go a long way toward reducing emissions even more. Campos noted that building a third runway at Heathrow was opposed by environmental groups who said it would invite more traffic and create more emissions. “A runway does not create more traffic,” he said. “More traffic comes from increased passenger demand and, in actuality, that third runway would reduce waiting time, increase efficiency and reduce emissions. If they do not build it, that traffic will go somewhere else such as Amsterdam or Paris with an extremely negative impact on the British economy. You have to analyze what the entire impact is and doing that gives us a perspective in terms of timeframe. Procedures such as optimized routing and continuous descent approaches can bring immediate results while infrastructure improvements are medium term and technological improvements are long term.”
Campos said that the nearest term solution to reducing emissions further is aircraft replacement.
“At 1,000 kilometers you fly about an hour versus nine to 15 hours in a car,” he continued. “In other parts of the world you can still take an overnight train in the 1,000 to 1,500-mile sector but beyond that there is no practical alternative to air transportation. The only practical alternative is if we change the paradigm. We can only give up flying if we change our way of life and it will be a different world than we have now. That is the dimension of the decision.” Campos noted that the company’s ERJs already are more efficient that current and possible future regulations. They are, he said, 53 percent better on emissions than previous generation aircraft and 50 percent better in the 100-seat segment. He also indicated that winglets on the ERJ 145 yields a two percent aerodynamic improvement for fewer emissions. On the 190/195 the improvement would be three percent while the 170/175 yields a four percent improvement. Coupled with fuel conservation procedures Embraer has developed, operators could achieve a 12-percent reduction. Those procedures include climbing with 290 knots indicated air speed compared to the standard climb speed. Embraer’s business jets are up to 33 percent better than previous generation equipment while the Phenom and Lineage are 50 percent better, he said.
Carbon Neutrality for Aviation
Campos quoted Airbus which indicated aircraft will be using 30 percent bio fuel by 2020 but others have gone further. FAA Assistant Administrator for Aviation Policy, Planning and Environment Dan Elwell, recently testified that the U.S. airline industry may be closer to achieving carbon neutral growth than thought. He cited FAA forecasts saying U.S. traffic will grow at an average annual rate of about four percent, although with recent airline failures which accounted for one percent of system capacity, it could be less. Certainly, fuel costs have prompted massive cutbacks in network capacity that were not part of FAA forecasts. Even so, NextGen traffic management technologies, if they ever get funded, will reduce emissions and, coupled with fleet replacement and improved operational procedures could mean as much as 3.5 percent fewer emissions, said Elwell. He expects the one percent gap to be closed with the introduction of bio fuels.
FAA’s goal is a one percent fuel efficiency improvement annually and Carl Burleson, director of FAA's Office of the Environment and Energy, said FAA was the first aviation authority to set energy saving targets. More importantly, statistics, according to Burleson, show efforts since 2003 have exceeded the agency’s own targets with greater fuel efficiency, originally targeted for 2011, having already been achieved.
Elwell cited U.S. statistics that GHGs from aviation dropped 3.7 percent even with a 12 percent growth in passengers. He compared that to a 32.8 percent increase in European aviation emissions over the same period indicating that the targeted approach may be more effective that the European emissions trading schemes scheduled for imposition in 2011.
A recent report from the International Air Transportation Association showed a 10-million-ton drop in CO2 emissions last year. Optimization of 395 routes for efficiency yielded 3.7 million tons while the remaining 6.8 million tons came from improved operational practices, upgraded fleets and taking weight out of aircraft.
"The industry is growing at five to six percent per year," said IATA director general Giovagni Bisignani in a recent speech. "Our responsible approach to the environment limited the growth of our carbon footprint to just half of that: three percent. The challenge is to keep the enormous economic benefits of air transport and eliminate the environmental impacts. So despite our good record, we must do more." See sidebar below for further industry efforts.
Embraer is investing $250 million this year in research for bio fuel programs and other technology that are not immediately translated into products. Campos said that technology to achieve carbon neutrality for aviation in the future has already been proven at the laboratory level.
“The challenge is deployment of the technology at the industrial level and the logistical distribution and production to scale,” he said. “By 2020 we will have jet fuel that is 30 percent bio fuel. There is no reason not to believe we can be carbon neutral by 2050. There is no technological barrier to overcome. The second generation bio fuel is in development and there is great potential that bio mass from raw materials that do not complete with the world’s food production has already been identified.”
Campos indicated the next paradigm shift in terms of emissions will be in bio fuels but that has run headlong into arguments that bio fuels compete with food staples such as wheat, sugar cane, corn and rice, the prices for which are already dramatically rising to the point that some countries have cut off exports.
Campos said there are three promising sources for bio fuel that do not compete with food staples. First is the oil derived from Brazilian babassu nuts, which has already been tested by Boeing and Virgin Atlantic. Related Story Native to Brazil, the tree can be cultivated in semi-desert land that otherwise has no potential for food cultivation and could be developed to build an economy for poor populations. The second is the Jathropa plant which grows like a plague in Brazil, mainly in areas where the soil characteristics are poor for other agricultural products. It is, said Campos, more efficient for producing bio fuel than babassu since it grows in more regions throughout South America. The last, he said is algae, now being researched in Israel and by Air New Zealand and Boeing. Campos indicated it is 150 times more productive than any bio mass and will kill all other bio fuels if it wins the race.
He predicted it would kill all other bio fuels. Interest in algae is clearly growing, he said. In addition to the Air New Zealand/Boeing research initiatives, Dutch company AlgaeLink announced its partnership with KLM in developing the next generation aviation fuel. AlgaeLink, a global manufacturer of commercial scale algae cultivation equipment and algae-to-fuel-technology, signed an exclusive agreement at the recent Future Fuels Aviation Summit for a pilot project with KLM on developing alternative fuel for the aviation industry.
Recent press reports announced a breakthrough in the development of "green gasoline," a liquid identical to standard gasoline in energy content, yet created from sustainable biomass sources such as switchgrass and poplar trees.
Becoming a Carbon Neutral Machine
As for becoming a leading authority on environmental initiatives, Embraer has already achieved quite a lot on that score based on its work to reduce the environmental footprint of its production sites. Campos noted that Embrear is the first aircraft manufacturer to achieve ISO 14001 certification for its facilities and the first to certify an aircraft – its Ipanema crop duster – to be fully powered by bio fuel. That project was cited as one of the 50 most important inventions of 2005 by Scientific American magazine. Originally certified decades ago, the Ipanema encountered problems with ethanol since it shortened engine life. Embraer redesigned the aircraft and engines for ethanol to solve the problem. Campos indicated that, during development and certification tests, the internal parts wear was lower than with avgas engine.
Its boilers and heaters have been retrofitted to use natural gas, thereby reducing emissions by 20 percent despite an increase in power usage. It has also achieved an over 80 percent rate for the recycling of solid wastes – wood, plastic, styrofoam, paper, cardboard, cooking oil, chemical waste, used paints and cans, composite material, and oils – towards a goal of zero contributions to land fills and hazardous materials. The remaining 20.4 represents materials which, at this time, are considered non-recyclable. “It all goes somewhere to be processed,” said Campos, who indicated that Embrear has also forged partnerships for other companies to use its waste to the point that that program is now a profit center for the company totaling $6.6 million in 2006, up 57.1 percent over the $4.2 million made in 2005. Last year it generated $9.7 million in revenue.
Its energy conservation programs were recognized by the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP), which honored the company with two awards in 2006 including the Award for Conservation and Rational Use of Energy and first place (from among 125 participating companies) for the program “Maximizing the Efficiency of Embraer’s Compressed Air System”, at its main plant in São José dos Campos, reducing electrical energy consumption by 456 MWh, for an efficiency gain of 7.2 percent. Similar projects are underway at other company units. Embraer also took third place with the “Natural Gas Air Conditioning System, with Thermal By-Product - Cogeneration”, which substituted OC-4 fuel oil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) with natural gas to heat the water for washing dishes and utensils in the restaurant.
While most might think Embraer would concentrate its new business aircraft carbon offset program on the deforestation of the Amazon, Campos indicated it was more interested in re-creating the forests bordering the Atlantic which are 93 percent gone. As an example of what can be done, he pointed to the world’s longest runway that it built at its Gavião Peixoto site. It committed to replant the native forest – 600,000 trees in a 250 acre area – over 10 years, a feat completed in far less time.
“We’ve seen an interesting phenomenon,” he said. “The local population has reported seeing animals that have not been there for many years. What we did was create a wildlife corridor between two forest ecosystems allowing animals to migrate thanks to our naturalization project. We even have wolves in middle of the runway.” While it has not sought carbon credits for that project, it has raised awareness of what can be done locally around its facilities.
Sidebar: Research Focusing on Alternatives and Fuel Cells
This year’s Berlin Air Show was replete with green announcements, according to Aviation Today Publisher John Persinos, who is covering the show via his daily blog. Questions from readers centered on alternative fuels and greater fuel efficiency.
He reported Boeing and Airbus are hard at work on developing and implementing fuel cell technology. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that produces electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen; pure water and heat are the only waste byproducts of the process. In addition, Boeing and Airbus have agreed to partner to gain greater emissions reduction through improvements in air traffic management systems by helping governments choose the most efficient path to modernization.
Continental Airlines, Boeing and GE Aviation recently announced plans to conduct a bio fuels demonstration flight in the first half of 2009 in an effort to identify sustainable fuel solutions for the aviation industry. Continental is the first major U.S. carrier to announce plans to highlight technological advancements in sustainable bio fuels that can help to further reduce carbon emissions. The bio fuel flight will use a Boeing Next-Generation 737 equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines. CFM is a 50/50 joint company of General Electric Company and Snecma (SAFRAN Group). In the months leading up to the flight, Continental, Boeing and GE will work together and with an undisclosed fuel provider to identify sustainable fuel sources that don't impact food crops, water resources or contribute to deforestation, and which can be produced in sufficient quantities to support a pre-flight test schedule that includes laboratory and ground-based jet engine performance testing to ensure compliance with stringent aviation fuel performance and safety requirements. Continental has achieved a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption per mainline revenue passenger mile flown over the past 10 years in streamlining operational procedures and to an investment of more than $12 billion to acquire 270 fuel-efficient aircraft and related equipment.
The Berlin Air Show also touted better jet engines but the trade off seems to be less CO2 equals more NOx, Persinos reported. The most advanced engines on new jets have far lower carbon dioxide emissions, but they also increase nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Indeed, some new engines emit about 40 percent more NOx than the older engines they’re replacing. That’s why NASA is now developing technology that would allow Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 jets, by 2018, to burn 25 percent less fuel and reduce NOx emissions by 80 percent. The work is all centered on big engines but the technology will ultimately be applied to all engines.
Rolls-Royce, which powers some EJRs is touting the fact that it has embraced environmental benchmarks set by the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE), a group comprised of roughly 40 members, including government agencies and private companies. ACARE calls for the following achievements by 2020, compared with the starting point of 2000: 50 percent reduction in fuel burn and CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer; 80 percent reduction in NOx; and a 50 percent reduction in perceived external noise levels.
The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) aims to achieve certifications for a 50 percent synthetic fuel by the end 2008 and of bio-jet fuels by 2013.
Addressing the need for Congress to work with the industry to meet environmental challenges, ATA’s James May noted the importance of calibrating any climate change-related legislation so that it is not counterproductive to the industry’s reinvestments into the operational innovations and technologies that improve fuel efficiency. ATA also applauded the “Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008,” commonly known as the 2008 Farm Bill.
"We are pleased with the energy provisions in the final version of the 2008 Farm Bill recently enacted by Congress," said May. "The legislation contains a strong commitment to the research and development of advanced renewable fuels and its report language expressly recognizes the tremendous potential that exists for renewable aviation fuel. Given the astronomical prices of jet fuel today and our interest in more environmentally friendly alternatives, the airline industry is anxious to work with the federal government to promote the rapid development of these exciting new fuel sources."