Kerry Lynch AIN Online
Industry Leaders Highlight Path to Net Zero
May 3, 2024
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  • Industry leaders laid out their road plan toward net zero by 2025 on Thursday before the Aero Club of Washington, outlining an effort to rapidly expand the use of sustainable aviation fuel and introduce all-electric and hybrid (and ultimately hydrogen) aircraft.

    But to get there, these ambitions need community-wide buy-in, partnerships, and multi-agency government collaborations, said members of a panel moderated by NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, which included Embraer Executive Jets president and CEO Michael Amalfitano, World Energy Supply Zero president Scott Lewis, and Billy Nolen, chief regulatory affairs officer at Archer and former acting FAA administrator.

    “Business aviation is an incubator for game-changing technologies that point the way to a net-zero future,” Bolen said in opening the discussion. “We didn’t just announce that we were going to be net zero by 2050—we’ve made huge investments, and we’re moving forward on multiple pathways.”

    Amalfitano agreed. “We are a big part of the ecosystem, not only for today but for the future of air travel and air mobility,” he said, explaining Embraer’s wide-ranging initiatives on the sustainability front.

    Embraer is investing in four major areas, and key among them is SAF. Embraer successfully tested the E2, Praetor 600, and Phenom 300 using neat, or 100%, SAF in 2023 and through its partnership with Avfuel, is significantly scaling up use—from four deliveries once a quarter in 2023 to once a week this year.  “So, we have 240,000 gallons of SAF, 72,000 of which is neat, and that will allow us to increase what was a low- to mid-single-digit consumption of SAF to 20% to 25% of what we do out of Melbourne, Florida.”

    The next area is electric, and he pointed to Embraer’s 90% stake in Eve Air Mobility. Embraer is testing a 100% high voltage electricity Ipanema ag-plane and incorporating those lessons learned on Eve’s platform. This is all done through partnerships, he said. “You can’t do these things [alone].”

    He further pointed to hybrid-electric, which he said “is a little further out” for Embraer’s timeline. This involves a concept family Energia, enabling the cross between SAF and electric. Embraer is eyeing executive commercial, cargo, and defense applications.

    And finally, a platform using a hydrogen-cell platform, which he put at the 2050 mark.

    But he pointed to a myriad of other technologies that can be explored, from blended wings to sustainable interior materials, such as bamboo. “We have a whole collection that’s proving ground for what you do inside the aircraft.”

    Lewis, meanwhile, discussed World Energy’s plans to get to a billion gallons of production by 2030 and aims to be a third of the U.S.’s goal of 3 billion gallons of SAF by that time. World Energy is in the process of scaling up its first SAF facility in Paramount, California. “Since we first started with that, we scaled it up about 10 times in terms of our production,” he noted, conceding that it is still relatively small. World Energy is at 4,000 barrels a day today at the facility, about 1,000 of which is SAF. But the plant is expanding to 25,000 barrels a day, of which 20,000 barrels is SAF.

    He said the company is exploring new pathways other than the current use of edible fats, such as cooking oils. “We are looking to a whole host of other feedstocks such as the [agricultural] pathways that were announced by the Department of Energy. It will take some time,” Lewis said. “There’s now a road map for how the agricultural industry is going to make their production more carbon effective, which means that it is better feedstock for us to use.”

    Along with Paramount, World Energy is standing up a second facility in Houston that can accommodate 20,000 barrels. These efforts will eventually involve hydrogen through a partnership. “We’re also in the process of developing a green hydrogen facility up on the west coast of Newfoundland,” he added.

    Altogether, he said, “these projects will require about $15 billion worth of investments. These are not small things and it requires participation at all levels…to see this happen.”

    Government policies are also paving the way but “it’s going to be a huge lift.”

    Nolen further explained the quest to electric with Archer’s Midnight eVTOL, saying that effort has been forwarded through the improvements in battery cell technology, the regulatory path provided to get there, and a level of federal investment, which in turn has “unlocked” the financing community.

    “All of those things working together have brought us to the point where we will be prepared to enter service as early as next year,” he said. Archer is setting up a factory in Georgia that could produce more than 2,000 Midnights per year, he said. “Our goal, our mission is to be able to say everyone who wants to fly will have access to Archer’s Midnight,” he said. “There’s still much work to be done.”

    While aviation is pursuing innovations, taking big risks, and making big investments in technologies, he said, those technologies must get to the marketplace. This means collaboration with global regulatory authorities and harmonization among them.

    “The partnership is critical, the collaboration that we have is critical, and we’ve been very fortunate to have the bilateral agreements that have been supported across … agencies,” he said. “It’s also about support from [Capitol] Hill.”

    Nolen pointed to tax credits such as the blender’s incentive as an example. “Having a collaborative relationship and realizing that it’s no longer something you can do on your own is important.”

    He further noted the partnerships necessary through the industry supply chain and academia.

    Amalfitano further underscored the need to invest in training a workforce to have expertise in sustainable initiatives. “You’ve got to start at grassroots” with high schools, colleges, and other training cooperatives.

    Nolen stressed the need for Congress to approve FAA reauthorization. “We are playing catch-up at the moment,” he said, adding that the bill will provide the FAA the necessary tools to facilitate the expansion of sustainable initiatives. “We are nearly there, but I cannot overstate the critical importance of having the reauthorization bill done and then allowing the FAA to move forward.”