Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier, and the Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center (Tadweer) are launching a research project to explore how municipal waste from homes and other city buildings can be converted into aircraft fuel.
“Waste-to-biofuel is a cutting edge technology and one that Etihad Airways believes will have a profoundly positive impact on the aviation industry, while also providing waste management solutions and a cleaner environment,” said Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer at Etihad Aviation Group, in a statement on Tuesday.
The adoption and improvement of sustainable energy supplies is a crucial step towards reducing the carrier’s dependency on fossil fuels, allowing the airline to grow sustainably and offset carbon emissions, he added.
Through an agreement signed on Tuesday, the two parties pledged to undertake an initial feasibility study towards developing a waste-to-fuel facility in Abu Dhabi.
If the project is successful, Etihad plans to use the resulting production of jet fuel to power its own planes, it said.
Air transport accounts for 2 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions and this is projected to rise to 10 per cent by 2050, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Some organisations, including the International Air Transport Association (Iata), have sought to address the issue by setting carbon reduction targets for airlines and other industry players.
Iata wants a 50 per cent reduction in net aviation carbon emissions by 2050 (from 2005 levels), carbon-neutral growth by 2020 and an average improvement in airlines’ fuel efficiency of 1.5 per cent from 2009 to 2020.
In its 2017 Sustainability Report, Etihad said it reduced carbon emissions by 3.3 per cent year-on-year in 2017 by retiring several older aircraft and switching to new, more fuel-efficient models.
The project with Tadweer aims to make better use of the estimated 700,000 tonnes per annum of municipal waste in Abu Dhabi that could potentially be converted into jet fuel or other energy sources, the two parties said. The cost of production could also be as low as 50 per cent of average international oil prices, they said.
“This MoU aligns with our mandate to deliver highly innovative industrial and municipal waste management solutions in line with the UAE’s Vision 2021 strategy and Abu Dhabi Waste Master Plan 2040 that aims to divert 75 per cent of municipal solid waste away from landfills,” said Salem Al Kaabi, acting general manager of Tadweer.