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Nevilledog

(51,079 posts)
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 06:50 PM Nov 2023

In a first, a major airline will cross the Atlantic without fossil fuels

https://www.canarymedia.com/articles/air-travel/in-a-first-a-major-airline-will-cross-the-atlantic-without-fossil-fuels

A Virgin Atlantic flight taking off this week from London to New York City will last about eight hours, span around 3,500 miles — and emit only a fraction of the planet-warming gases associated with a typical transatlantic flight.

On Tuesday, the British airline is set to pluck a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from its fleet and run the two powerful engines on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, during the journey from Heathrow Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport. If all goes to plan, Virgin Atlantic will be the first commercial airline to fly a passenger plane across the Atlantic Ocean by burning only fossil-free jet fuel, marking an important milestone for the CO2-intensive industry.

The flight will demonstrate ​“the longer-term potential of SAF to decarbonize aviation,” said Joey Cathcart, a senior aviation associate in the Climate-Aligned Industries Program at RMI, a clean energy think tank. (Canary Media is an independent affiliate of RMI.)

“This is really critical because SAF is the most readily available decarbonization mechanism that aviation has today,” he added. Cathcart, who is based in Salt Lake City, is slated to board the ocean-crossing plane tomorrow in London with a select group of passengers. ​“Confidence is high,” he replied when asked if he had any preflight jitters.

*snip*


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In a first, a major airline will cross the Atlantic without fossil fuels (Original Post) Nevilledog Nov 2023 OP
TY AMAZING! Good Luck for this being Cha Nov 2023 #1
Good luck! Safe Journey! electric_blue68 Nov 2023 #2
"..a select group of passengers". I was wondering underpants Nov 2023 #3
in other words Conjuay Nov 2023 #15
Sorry, Not Seeing It ProfessorGAC Nov 2023 #4
Exactly: defossilization is not decarbonization 4dog Nov 2023 #6
It is to the extent that it reduces the carbon footprint via Disaffected Nov 2023 #9
You're Right About Methanol ProfessorGAC Nov 2023 #11
I've had some experience with biodiesel as well. Disaffected Nov 2023 #18
To Be Clear ProfessorGAC Nov 2023 #19
Three part process: Disaffected Nov 2023 #21
So, You Water Washed ProfessorGAC Nov 2023 #22
how about methanol from anaerobic digesters? mopinko Nov 2023 #23
Yeah, That's A Good Idea ProfessorGAC Nov 2023 #24
the town of amana, ia mopinko Nov 2023 #26
I Like Your Term ProfessorGAC Nov 2023 #10
Thanks, that question leapt right into my mind as I read the excerpt rurallib Nov 2023 #13
Thank you... one pound of burnt SAF produces the same amount of CO2 as one pound of avgas. WarGamer Nov 2023 #20
Yieks. jimfields33 Nov 2023 #5
My first thought was that New York to London instead of Buns_of_Fire Nov 2023 #7
That's true. They probably have ever microsecond jimfields33 Nov 2023 #12
I would bet they have flown extensively vanlassie Nov 2023 #16
I have doubts about the non fossil fuel race for commercial flights, peacebuzzard Nov 2023 #8
I'd love to see more research on bullet trains, too. ShazzieB Nov 2023 #17
So how soon are the mega-rich individuals we so recently were told account for so very much of aircraft produced Ford_Prefect Nov 2023 #14
"Where SAF is available, it can cost three to five times more on average than conventional jet fuel." dalton99a Nov 2023 #25

underpants

(182,769 posts)
3. "..a select group of passengers". I was wondering
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 07:08 PM
Nov 2023

“This is really critical because SAF is the most readily available decarbonization mechanism that aviation has today,” he added. Cathcart, who is based in Salt Lake City, is slated to board the ocean-crossing plane tomorrow in London with a select group of passengers. ​“Confidence is high,” he replied when asked if he had any preflight jitters.

ProfessorGAC

(64,995 posts)
4. Sorry, Not Seeing It
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 07:15 PM
Nov 2023

The description in the article says these are fatty acid methyl esters, mostly from animal fat.
That means 12 to 18 carbons on each of the 3 chains, plus the 3 carbons on the glyceryl backbone.
That's a lot of carbon. Know what carbon gives us? CO2. Yeah, the biggest culprit in climate change.
I understand the excitement of sustainability & weaning off petroleum.
But, given the energy density of esters vs. kerosene, I'm not seeing the climate change benefit.
The article references "decarbonization". Using carbon to replace carbon is not decarbonization.

4dog

(503 posts)
6. Exactly: defossilization is not decarbonization
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 07:50 PM
Nov 2023

Another distraction that sustainability and lower temperatures will arrive any time now.

Disaffected

(4,554 posts)
9. It is to the extent that it reduces the carbon footprint via
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 08:10 PM
Nov 2023

a portion of the carbon being from renewable sources (animal fat) - i.e it is a loose use of the term.

Anyway, this stuff sounds like an equivalent to biodiesel which is also a methyl ester and is also produced primarily from animal or vegetable fat.

Methanol however is required for the transesterification process which IIRC is usually derived from fossil methane so the stuff is not "100% sustainable" as the article claims. It is also very probably more expensive than fossil jet fuel so there's yer trade-off.

ProfessorGAC

(64,995 posts)
11. You're Right About Methanol
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 08:26 PM
Nov 2023

Methanol is used in the presence of an alkaline to split the fat into methyl esters & glycerin, and the latter is decanted. (I did substantial optimization work on ester manufacturing processes. So, I've been around the block on this.)
That said, methanol can be produced in vast quantities from the digestion/fermentation of wood.
So, the benefit you describe could still be obtained with that approach.
And, if at substantial enough scale, it would not be that much more expensive especially given the far lower capital & maintenance costs. And, remember that tallow & lard are "waste products" so they're not comparable to corn or soybean oil. Raw material costs would be far lower than biodiesel products.

Disaffected

(4,554 posts)
18. I've had some experience with biodiesel as well.
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 09:38 PM
Nov 2023

I have a Golf TDI and used to make my own biodiesel using used veg oil from a potato chip & taco manufacturer. Did it for several years until the price of canola oil went up and the chip makers started reusing their oil and my source dried up.

I had a fairly large operation for an amateur - buying methanol by the drum and potassium hydroxide by the 50 lb bag. I ran 100% bio without much issue for several years but, I eventually pooched my injector pump seals (which I was fortunately able to replace myself). At the time I could make it for about 25 cents per litre.

Anyhow, yes "wood" alcohol can be produced from wood but I was not aware that a significant amount is now made by that process - maybe that will change.

Biodiesel can also be made from tallow & lard can it not? maybe with greater difficulty and lower yield?

BTW, I had to answer some pointed questions from the methanol supplier - they were suspicious I might be using it in a meth lab.

ProfessorGAC

(64,995 posts)
19. To Be Clear
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 09:50 PM
Nov 2023

Substantial amounts of methanol are not made from wood today.
But, it's 200 year old technology & would be very easy to being to massive scale.
Capital would be significant, but still not close to refinery costs. So, the option is out there, though the overall cycle time is far greater than straightforward electrochemical oxidation of methane. But, once the pipeline is filled that's transparent.
Yes, a fat or oil is a fat or oil. The structure is exactly the same. The differences are the length of the carbon chains and the amount of double bonds. By convention, fats are animal sourced, oils from plants. But, the basic structure is identical.
I guess I can understand the methanol supplier concerns, but I'd think most meth labs use acetone. It's what I'd use if I wanted to play Walter White.
What did you do to reduce total glycerin in the biodiesel you made? That's typically the most rigorous part of the process. For B-100 markets, the free & total glycerin specifications are very tight.

Disaffected

(4,554 posts)
21. Three part process:
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 10:11 PM
Nov 2023

First, after the reaction has completed, let the mixture cool and settle in the tank for a day or two, then drain the glycerin from the bottom.

Second, add water and circulate to dissolve the remaining glycerin and methanol. Let settle and drain. Repeat until water remains clear and the biodiesel turns semi-transparent amber instead of brown.

Dry the product (important) by bubbling air (aquarium air pump used) into the bottom of the drum for several days until the bio is totally clear.

I never did get the result analysed so don't know if any specs were met but the stuff worked well (with the exception of the injection pump seals, which would have happened anyhow even with 100% pure, 100% biodiesel).

BTW, I used an electric hot water heater (with the anode removed) for the reaction vessel -,cheap but worked well. The glycerin also made a great driveway weed killer!

ProfessorGAC

(64,995 posts)
22. So, You Water Washed
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 10:54 PM
Nov 2023

Yeah, that's what's used for around 75% of all BD.
A small percentage is tower distilled, but that capital has to already be sunk (existing assets) or it's not worth the cost.
Some companies have employed a wiped-film evaporator, which is faster than water washing but lower efficiency than distillation.
The biggest plant that used what I considered ideal conditions for the reaction made 200 million pounds of BD per year. 90% of that was water washed, the other 10% distilled. But, that place had glycerin recovery & purification & purification capability to get USP grade glycerol. So, they could sell that too.
Plus, this place had their own wastewater treatment plant, so all that water could be treated for effluent to the river. (The water they put into the river was better than what was already there!)
The reactions were done in 40,000 gallon reactors, so around 210,000# per batch.
Pretty big operation.

ProfessorGAC

(64,995 posts)
24. Yeah, That's A Good Idea
Tue Nov 28, 2023, 11:44 AM
Nov 2023

Anything but methane, unless the methane is captured from landfills.
That said, the waste outfit about 5 miles from us captures their methane, runs generators for their own power, and runs all their trucks off of LNG.
But, if they're just flaring it, capture it and make methanol out of it.
I'd think your idea would scale-up easily, too.

mopinko

(70,077 posts)
26. the town of amana, ia
Tue Nov 28, 2023, 11:56 AM
Nov 2023

gets all its electricity from 1 dairy farm. iirc, the whole project cost $20m, but a lot of that was that they built a whole sewer system so they dont have to shovel shit.
just to build a digester instead of a manure pond shd almost b a wash.

WarGamer

(12,436 posts)
20. Thank you... one pound of burnt SAF produces the same amount of CO2 as one pound of avgas.
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 10:00 PM
Nov 2023

The rest is semantics... to come up with the 80% reduction claim.

jimfields33

(15,769 posts)
5. Yieks.
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 07:38 PM
Nov 2023

“If all goes to plan, Virgin Atlantic will be the first commercial airline to fly a passenger plane across the Atlantic Ocean”


Wouldn’t it be better if they flew over land in case the plan doesn’t pan out?

Buns_of_Fire

(17,174 posts)
7. My first thought was that New York to London instead of
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 07:57 PM
Nov 2023

London to New York might also give a little extra margin (no headwinds) just in case. But these people know what they're doing (as opposed to me), so I know they've considered all the angles ten times over.

peacebuzzard

(5,167 posts)
8. I have doubts about the non fossil fuel race for commercial flights,
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 08:02 PM
Nov 2023

Target years for a switch to more climate friendly emissions is still 15 years in the future. And that signifies the airline execs promising such a "stop the machine" switch to cleaner air will be long gone after they have bailed with their golden parachutes. In the meantime all efforts in that regard will trigger enormous tax benefits for the airlines.
And also in the meantime it gives false hope that the transportation system is attempting to work for the environment while more trash spews into the air we breathe.
Personally I wish the enthusiasm would back more research into a cleaner transportation in the form of the bullet trains.
But then, you would have to gain massive support for those issues. Just no way to stop the system or the pollution anytime soon.
The earth has always needed about a hundred Al Gores and Paul Wellstones making critical decisions on the atmospheric emissions and regulations.
** on edit, sorry for the sad post but
P.S. this event is heralded as a future reality but it needs to happen sooner than later. sorry for the lack of enthusiasm, I guess its because I see so many cheap and crowded flights and airports as well as too many cars in the world right now.

ShazzieB

(16,368 posts)
17. I'd love to see more research on bullet trains, too.
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 09:32 PM
Nov 2023

But trains of any kind can't get people across oceans, so we'd still be left with that problem.

Ford_Prefect

(7,886 posts)
14. So how soon are the mega-rich individuals we so recently were told account for so very much of aircraft produced
Mon Nov 27, 2023, 09:02 PM
Nov 2023

pollution and fuel use going to switch over to this fuel source?

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