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Could jet fuel made from food waste reduce emissions?

2 min read
AUTHOR: Matt Ridout

Scientists say that making jet fuel from food waste has the potential to drastically reduce carbon emissions from flying. The authors of a new study have found a way of turning food waste into a type of paraffin that works with jet engines, and has the potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 165% compared to fossil energy.

Currently, green jet fuel is made in a similar way to biodiesel for cars and HGVs, by utilising vegetable oils as well as waste fats, oils and grease. Converting these oils and wastes to jet fuel is an expensive process, however researchers think that converting food waste, animal manure and waste water will offer a more competitive hydrocarbon for airplanes.

“There’s exciting jet fuels that rely on burning trash and dry waste but this actually works for those wastes that have high water content, which we normally dispose of in landfill,” said Derek Vardon, a senior research engineer at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the lead author on the study commented to the BBC.

“Being able to show that you can take these volatile fatty acids, and that there’s a really elegant, simple way to turn it into jet fuel – that’s where I see the broader applicability of this one, and folks can continue to develop and refine it.”

“That’s where we see the most potential for this technology is that you’re preventing methane emissions, and dramatically lowering the carbon footprint of jet fuel. And you just can’t do that with fossil fuels without getting into things like offsets,” said Derek Vardon.

The researchers aim to begin test flights with US airline Southwest in 2023.