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Honeywell Thinks It Can Cut Aviation’s Carbon Footprint by 80% With New Ethanol Fuel Tech

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An Alaska Air flight on approach to land at LAX, with palm trees in the foreground.

Pretty soon, flying could be a whole lot less dirty.
Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images (Getty Images)

Aviation is one of the few industries that can’t easily move away from combustion power because batteries are just too heavy. So, until that changes, we’re stuck with jet fuel and avgas, but some companies, like Honeywell, are working to make aviation fuel cleaner and greener through the use of biofuels.

According to a report published on Monday by Reuters, Honeywell announced that a new technology that it has developed could help dramatically increase the production of ethanol-based fuels, which could significantly decrease the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.

According to Honeywell, depending on the feedstock used, its technology could decrease greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent versus petroleum-based fuels. Of course, in America, the bulk of our ethanol comes from corn, which is on the low end of efficiency when it comes to gallons of ethanol created per acre of crop (approximately 354 gal/acre compared to sugar beets which produce over twice as much) so that 80 percent number is probably not in the cards for us.

In September of 2021, the Biden administration began efforts to boost the production of sustainable aviation fuels to approximately 3 billion gallons. That sounds like a lot – and it is – but it’s just a drop in the tank when compared to the 35 billion gallon appetite for fuels that the aviation industry currently has. Getting closer to that number will require a bunch of creative thinking, but Honeywell has things covered here too.

Honeywell can build parts of its ethanol-based aviation fuel processing tech off-site and install them as modules for the client who purchases it. This approach means that it’s a lot less of a wait to get a sustainable aviation fuel plant up and running, which means that it can start making money sooner, making it an easier sell for refiners.

That quick startup, combined with new incentives for sustainable fuel production included in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, means it’s likely that we’ll see a big upswing in sustainable aviation fuel producers in the near future.

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