Jet fuel made from food waste and other “wet waste” could cut carbon emissions by 165%

Jet fuel made from food waste and other “wet waste” could reduce carbon emissions by 165% compared to fossil fuel, according to new research.

Researchers in the US have discovered a way to transform food scraps and used cooking oil, as well as animal manure and wastewater into a type of paraffin that works in jet engines.

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that this sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 165% compared to fossil energy.

Every year, millions of tonnes of food waste is hauled to landfills across the US. Once there, it rots and produces methane, a greenhouse gas over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Eliminating food waste as a source of methane, then, can be a highly effective way at driving down landfill emissions.

From avoiding using fossil fuels and diverting food waste from landfills this enables saving emissions, according to the report.

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the University of Dayton, Yale University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have found a way of transforming wet waste – including food waste, animal manure and water waste – so that it produces volatile fatty acids instead of methane.

This process involved the combining of renewable isoparaffins and straight-chain paraffins that could be blended with conventional jet fuel in higher concentrations, up to 70%. Researchers were then able to use a catalytic conversion to create the paraffin from the fatty acids into this sustainable fuel. This new fuel also produces 34% less soot than current fuels in use.

Airline companies such as Southwest Airlines is collaborating with NREL on scaling up SAF from wet waste and is providing industry insight on how the fuel might be used and supplied across key regions throughout the United States.

NREL scientist Derek Vardon said: “If our refining pathway is scaled up, it could take as little as a year or two for airlines like Southwest to get the fuel regulatory approvals they need to start using wet waste SAF in commercial flights. That means net-zero-carbon flights are on the horizon earlier than some might have thought.”

The new fuel is planned to be used in test flights in 2023.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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