[Mp4] How is jet fuel made from trash?

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You can see how light and fluffy this material is.

 

Trash, sorted, shredded, and piled into heaps. But when United Airlines looks at this garbage, it sees jet fuel, or more specifically, sustainable aviation fuel known as SAF, which many see as the key to decarbonizing aviation.

 

But there’s a supply problem. Producers made about 15.8 million gallons of SAF last year in the US. Major US airlines used about 17.5 billion gallons of jet fuel.

 

We don’t have the solution commercially available at scale to really make a difference right now, but we do know what that solution is, and it’s sustainable aviation fuel.

 

So airlines and the government are now pumping money into the low-carbon fuel sector, investing millions in projects like SAF produce from trash to get this nascent industry off the ground. But will it take off?

 

The aviation industry alone accounted for more than 2% of global emissions in 2021, and its share of the pie is expected to grow. Unlike the auto industry, which is moving away from fossil fuels to battery power, commercial jets still need liquid fuel to fly.

 

If you look at our greenhouse gas footprint as an airline, a commercial airline, 98% of the emissions that we create and put into the atmosphere, are from the use of fuel.

 

SAF is what’s called a drop-in solution because it can drop in place of petroleum fuel. It doesn’t require new infrastructure or even new planes. The SAF on the market today, can cut emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel.

 

In Sparks, Nevada, Fulcrum BioEnergy is working on a fuel with a bigger promise.

 

We produce a fuel product that has zero net impact on carbon emissions.

 

It starts with trash, about 350,000 tons of it each year. After sorting out things like rocks and metals, the leftover garbage is made into that confetti-like material.

 

There’s paper, there’s wrappings, there’s plastic shredding.

 

It’s the feedstock for Fulcrum’s fuel.

 

All of this material, what you’re seeing in this warehouse here, will convert into about a hundred thousand gallons of transportation fuel.

 

But getting from this to fuel isn’t simple.

 

Creating that feedstock is the first part of the process. The next stage of the process is what you see here, taking that feedstock with the white conveyors going up to the top of this first gasification tower, beginning the process of transforming that feedstock into usable gases. It’s a three-stage gasification process. What you’re looking at here is the first stage.

 

The process creates carbon monoxide and hydrogen molecules, known as syngas, which is then cleaned and sent through this Fischer-Tropsch System.

 

But here, those gases are actually converted into a liquid transportation fuel that can be sold to refineries or ultimately, will be, you know, modifying, and we’re upgrading into jet fuel.

 

Fulcrum opened this facility, its first commercial-scale plant last year and it says it will produce 11 million gallons of its synthetic crude oil product here by next year. United, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and others, have already signed offtake agreements with Fulcrum that can see the company deliver 290 million gallons of its fuel annually.

 

It really is all about supply. I mean, let’s call it what it is. There’s not a lack of demand for low-carbon SAF.

 

This is why outside of Fulcrum’s Nevada plant 25 SAF production refineries are now planned or open in the US alone.

 

United is already pumping a blend of jet fuel and SAF onto its flights here, out of Los Angeles, as well as San Francisco, and Amsterdam Airports. In 2022, it used 3 million gallons of SAF. This year it expects, that to hit 10 million, but United has a goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

 

Overall, I need 4 billion gallons of fuel. So if we’re talking about 10 million gallons of SAF, it is far less than 0.1% of my total fuel supply, which is really where we get to the crux of the issue. How do we generate more production? How do we create more supply so that it’s not less than 0.1% of my fuel?

 

Earlier this year, the airline launched a more than $100 million fund to invest in startups looking for new ways to produce SAF from feedstocks, including alcohol, forest waste, and of course, trash. It even enlisted Oscar the Grouch to draw attention to the effort.

 

Trash like this could be used for good?

 

If SAF is gonna make its way into the market on a more broad-based, a more commonly used approach, it’s gonna have to be new feedstock sources that unleash larger volumes.

 

The SAF being pumped today, relies on used cooking oil and animal fats as its feedstock.

 

Vegetable oils, fats, waste oils, greases, are also used for fuels for the on-road transportation sector. So the same feedstocks are used for biodiesel and renewable diesel. So there’s competition.

 

About 6 million metric tons of used cooking oil and 27 million metric tons of animal fats are traded globally every year, which would cover only around 5% of jet fuel consumption.

 

There is not enough used cooking oil in the world to fuel aviation, that is true. But when you start looking at the second-generation around trash, around residue from the forest, from ethanol, we have 17 billion gallons of ethanol in the US alone. There is plenty of feedstock there. It’s a question of how do you get the feedstock to the right production location so that you can actually create sustainable aviation fuels with a low carbon footprint?

 

At least 30 airlines, have promised to use SAF, usually for 10% of their fuel consumption by 2030, and the Biden Administration has set a goal of scaling US SAF production to 3 billion gallons per year by then too.

 

SAP global projections show the country won’t quite hit that, but it will scale to more than 2 billion gallons a year by the target date.

 

We certainly see the framework, and we’d certainly see the corporate community taking steps in order to increase domestic SAF production. And so even if mandates are not being met, progress is certainly being made.

 

Then, there’s the issue of cost. SAF is typically two to four times more expensive than regular fuel.

 

Airlines have tight margins, and customers are always looking for the best price, and it’s uncertain how much tolerance consumers have for increased prices by using biofuels.

 

The Inflation Reduction Act set aside about $300 million for low-emissions aviation technologies, plus $500 million for biofuels. It also established two separate tax credits for SAF to help bring its cost per gallon closer to conventional fuel.

 

The IRA was a game-changer, a game-changer. It actually puts sustainable aviation fuels on the map. This was really a signal to the market, to producers, that the government is committed to building a market for sustainable aviation fuels, and it is backing this as the pathway to decarbonize aviation.

 

And while experts say more incentives are also needed, the industry is now flying with some wind at its back.

 

SAF is having a moment, and that moment is gonna continue for a very long time.

 

Source: WSJ

WORD BANK:

fluffy /ˈflʌfi/ (adj): bông/mịn

sustainable /səˈsteɪnəbl/ [B2] (adj): bền vững

aviation /ˌeɪviˈeɪʃn/ [C1] (n): hàng không

supply /səˈplaɪ/ [B1] (n): nguồn cung

decarbonize /ˌdiːˈkɑːrbənaɪz/ (v): giảm thiểu cacbon

pump /pʌmp/ [C1] (v): bơm

nascent /ˈneɪsnt/ (adj): non trẻ

emission /ɪˈmɪʃn/ [B2] (n): khí thải

petroleum /pəˈtrəʊliəm/ [C1] (n): dầu mỏ

conventional /kənˈvenʃənl/ [B2] (adj): thông thường

warehouse /ˈwerhaʊs/ [C1] (n): nhà kho

conveyor /kənˈveɪər/ (n): băng chuyền

refinery /rɪˈfaɪnəri/ [C2] (n): nhà máy lọc dầu

commercial /kəˈmɜːrʃl/ [B1] (n): thương mại

synthetic /sɪnˈθetɪk/ (adj): tổng hợp

annually /ˈænjuəli/ [B2] (adv): hằng năm

crux /krʌks/ (n): mấu chốt

volume /ˈvɑːljəm/ [B2] (n): khối lượng

renewable /rɪˈnuːəbl/ [B1] (adj): có thể tái tạo

projection /prəˈdʒekʃn/ [C1] (n): dự báo

framework /ˈfreɪmwɜːrk/ [B2] (n): nền móng/nền tảng

corporate /ˈkɔːrpərət/ [B2] (n): doanh nghiệp

mandate /ˈmændeɪt/ [C1] (n): mục tiêu

margin /ˈmɑːrdʒɪn/ [C1] (n): lợi nhuận

biofuel /ˈbaɪəʊfjuːəl/ [B2] (n): nhiên liệu sinh học

credit /ˈkredɪt/ (n): tín dụng


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