BILL READ FRAeS talks to JON PLATT, CEO Air BP, about what the company has been doing to assist the air transport industry in reducing its impact on the environment.

 

According to figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), aviation generates around 2% of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - which contribute to climate change and global warming. In recent years, the international aviation industry has been making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, with the withdrawal of older aircraft and the introduction of new more efficient aircraft, aero engines and biofuels.

Over the years international regulations have been introduced which seek to address aviation carbon emissions, such as the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union Emission Trading System and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s new CORSIA scheme. These initiatives have seen the introduction of ‘carbon credits’ which set a monetary value on the cost of polluting the air and which are sold in units of CO2 equivalent tonnes. There are two types of market for carbon credits. The first is the larger compliance markets in which governments and companies buy carbon credits to help them comply with the total amount of CO2 they are allowed to emit under international environmental regulations – such as under the EU ETS. There is also a voluntary market in which companies or individuals purchase offsets generated by activities which reduce carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions. Offset projects must follow validation and verification procedures to demonstrate that they are generating carbon reductions. BP operates in both of these markets.

Companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint are encouraged to first reduce their own carbon emissions where possible, and then to offset any additional emissions through the purchase of carbon credits, which fund additional emission reductions elsewhere.

According to the IATA website, over 30 member airlines have introduced their own offset programmes. Now an aviation fuel supplier has joined these airlines, Air BP, which supplies over 7bn gallons of jet kerosene and aviation gasoline a year for over 6,000 flights. Ten years ago, BP set up Target Neutral, a not-for-profit carbon offsetting programme which it claims has offset 2.5m tonnes of carbon on behalf of customers, half of which has been achieved in the past three years.

To learn more, AEROSPACE talked to Air BP’s CEO, Jon Platt, about carbon offsets and the work of BP Target Neutral.

AEROSPACE: What is the aim of Air BP’s carbon offset scheme?

JP: Aviation passenger numbers are increasing by around 5% per annum. Even after fuel efficiency improvements with new aircraft coming on-stream, aviation carbon emissions are growing by about 2% per annum. ICAO has recognised that something needs to be done and has committed to carbon neutral growth from 2020 and a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050. The industry can achieve the goals through a-broad based approach across a number of areas: new technology, flying smarter through operational improvements, biofuel (lower carbon fuel) and carbon offsetting. Air BP is committed to the aviation industry’s efforts to achieve its ambitious environmental targets and wants to play a leading role. We support our customers in meeting their obligations in terms of a lower carbon future, which enables them to manage their reputation.

In 2016, we launched our environmental solutions offer to customers. The environmental offering supports a best practice carbon reduction programme to reduce, replace and neutralise carbon emissions. The key elements are lower carbon fuels, unleaded aviation gasoline for small single piston aircraft, lower carbon operations, and both voluntary and compulsory carbon offsetting.

Our first step is to help our customers reduce their carbon impact by providing fuels and operations which are more carbon efficient. Once we have helped our customers reduce their carbon impact, we can then offset the unavoidable carbon through the carbon offsetting programme. It is a well-accepted principle of carbon management that carbon offsetting shouldn’t be the first go-to-solution. A company must make efforts to reduce their carbon impact from operations first.

Our environmental solutions package can be summarised as 'Reduce, Replace and Neutralise' and we apply the same principles to our operations.

Air BP has been supplying biojet to Oslo Airport from January 2015.

On the Reduce side, Air BP has been commercially supplying biojet through the hydrant system at Oslo airport since January 2016. We also invested $30m in Fulcrum, a low-carbon jet fuel producer, securing a ten-year offtake agreement for 50m US gallons per year. Primarily for the general aviation world, Air BP also supplies unleaded Avgas from a number of locations in Europe.

For Replace, we provide a suite of technical services, including consulting on stop start technology, electric vehicles, flow switches and variable drives. Air BP conducted a study to establish our own carbon footprint, independently assured by a consultant, to quantify our emissions.

Finally, for Neutralise, Air BP offset the balance of its emissions through BP Target Neutral thereby supporting environmental projects around the world. With this in place Air BP is the first aviation fuelling provider to achieve carbon neutrality for its into plane operations, and has made a ten-year commitment to retain our carbon neutral accreditation and aim to reduce emissions by 5% over this period.

The Turkish government is aiming to generate 20GW of electricity from wind farms by 2013. (Nordex)

AEROSPACE: Can you explain more about the work of BP Target Neutral. What are the different sorts of schemes it is involved in?

JP: The projects enable Air BP to neutralise its emissions by buying carbon offsets, the purchase of which supports low carbon development projects around the world. These projects also generally help improve livelihoods in the communities where they are based.

There are currently seven projects in the portfolio, showcasing a range of low carbon development initiatives:

1. Biomass China – The National Bachu Biomass Power Generation Project utilises biomass/agricultural residue (mainly cotton stalks) to generate renewable electricity in Bachu County, Xinjiang Uygur, China.

2. The Campus Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects (CCEEP) support colleges and universities across the USA in developing and marketing carbon offsets as a way to accelerate their progress towards campus carbon neutrality.

3. The Lower Zambezi REDD+ project aims to protect the Rufunsa Conservancy, a 38,781 hectare area adjacent to the Lower Zambezi National Park.

4. Gas switching USA is a pioneering use of an alternative low carbon gas in the safe manufacture of magnesium auto parts.

5. Hydropower China consists of over 70 small run-of-river hydropower stations in less-developed rural areas of south-western China.

6. Treadle pumps, India promotes of low cost irrigation devices in the eastern states of India.

7. Wind power, Turkey consists of nine wind turbines which feed power into the Turkish national grid which is dominated by fossil fuel power plants.

All the projects selected for the BP Target Neutral Portfolio are subject to a stringent due diligence and are 100% compliant with the the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA) Code of Best Practice.

AEROSPACE: How are the schemes monitored and measured?

JP: The monitoring, verification and issuance of offset credits have to follow internationally recognised standards. These standards provide a methodological framework, independent verification process and central registry to ensure emissions reductions are real, measurable, permanent, additional (i.e. that they would not have happened without the project) and unique. We only work with those Standards that are approved under the ICROA Code of Best Practice. Every project in our current portfolio complies with either the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) or the Gold Standard.

AEROSPACE: How do the offset schemes help to reduce the total amount of CO2 being released from aircraft?

JP: Only a certain level of emission reductions from an aircraft are possible to achieve with today’s technology, and as we try to reduce CO2 emissions further it becomes harder and more expensive to do so. By offsetting the unavoidable emissions through schemes such as those outlined above, the aviation industry enables projects to reduce emissions in other areas of the economy, ensuring that no net release of carbon dioxide occurs, whilst delivering a number of non-carbon benefits and allowing total emissions to be reduced at a lower economic cost to society.

AEROSPACE: Is the aim of the scheme to reduce CO2 emission levels or to reduce their rate of growth?

JP: The aim of the initiative is to reduce Air BP’s operational emissions and make a positive contribution to the transition to a lower carbon economy over the longer-term.

KLM Boeing 747 powered by a biofuel blend. (KLM)

AEROSPACE: Are there any carbon saving advantages in using biofuels? Do they release less carbon or do they just have the advantage of being sourced from plants?

JP: Biofuels have the same chemical composition as fossil-derived fuels but, as carbon is absorbed or diverted from the atmosphere, they have lower lifecycle emissions. In a first for commercial aviation, in January 2016, Air BP, together with Norwegian airport operator Avinor and SkyNRG, collaborated to enable the commercial supply of jet biofuel at Oslo Airport Gardermoen from the airport’s main fuel farm, via the existing hydrant mechanism. In terms of carbon emissions, the specifics for each batch of biofuel will vary but the minimum criteria is 35% reduction in carbon emissions.

Air BP's lower Zambezi REDD+ project includes forestry protection. (Air BP)

AEROSPACE: It has been reported that carbon offset schemes no longer invest in planting new trees to soak up CO2. If this is true, then why is this?

JP: Some carbon offset schemes certainly do support reforestation activities as well as avoiding deforestation. BP Target Neutral invests in a variety of projects, some of which include forestry protection like the lower Zambezi REDD+ project. Other projects in the portfolio reduce carbon emissions in other ways such as using hydro or renewable biomass to generate clean energy and displace carbon intense sources of power. We aim to have a balanced portfolio including a range of technologies, united by the use of the highest quality offsets certificates.

AEROSPACE: Does Air BP’s initiative include such schemes as trapping and storing CO2 underground?

JP: No, we currently offset using the projects highlighted above.

AEROSPACE: How will Air BP’s carbon offset scheme fit in with the new ICAO CORSIA international carbon offsetting scheme?

JP: The details of the CORSIA are still being defined. BP is currently considering how it can support its customers in meeting ICAO CORSIA requirements through both reducing emissions and offsetting. Air BP can help its customers reduce their carbon impact by providing biofuels and refuelling operations which are more carbon efficient. In order to supply the offsets required for compliance with CORSIA, BP also has a dedicated Global Environmental Products trading team, who are active in all major emissions compliance markets around the world. With over 15 years of experience in the carbon markets, generating offsets and delivering compliance units to customers, this team is well placed to supply compliance offsets to the aviation industry once more clarity becomes available as to which units will be eligible under CORSIA.

AEROSPACE: What are the advantages of membership of ICROA?

JP: BP Target Neutral was one of the founding members of ICROA. The main goal of ICROA is to ensure high quality standards. As a member, BP Target Neutral is subject to an annual audit of our standards against the ICROA Code of Best Practice. The Code is designed to protect businesses and consumers using carbon offsetting by ensuring that all offsets are real, permanent and additional.

The aviation industry has set itself CO2 reduction targets. (KLM)

AEROSPACE: What further action do you think could be taken to reduce the amount of CO2 being emitted from aircraft?

JP: The aviation industry is taking a number of proactive steps to reduce the amount of CO2 being emitted from aircraft, including operational improvements, biofuels and offsetting, and has set ambitious CO2 reduction targets on itself. There remains a large opportunity across a number of these areas and we are committed to helping our customers meet these targets.

 

Bill Read
10 March 2017

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