Posts Tagged biomass
What? I hear you say. Praise for an airline in the Green Review? Am I reading the right blog? Well; yes you are. And I have to say that – praise where praise is due – this is a really good idea.
British Airways, like most other airlines, will be very quick to tell us that they are doing their bit to protect the planet, and none of us will really believe them. Nevertheless, the world’s favourite airline could soon be on its way to becoming the world’s greenest airline if this project is successful.
BA is pioneering the world’s first waste bio jet fuel plant. Now, I’ve already had a pop at bio fuels for airlines, calling it a load of old greenwash, and I don’t agree with biofuels in general. However, I am a firm believer in fuels derived from waste, which is what BA are intending to manufacture.
Of course there is still the issue of carbon emissions from airlines and the fact that they release these emissions directly into a very sensitive part of the atmosphere. This impact will not be cured by a simple swap of fuels. That said, though, some figures say that lifecycle carbon emission reductions of 95% will be possible when compared to traditional jet kerosene, but we’ll see about that eh? (That’s not the sound of me being cynical is it? Never)
These lower emissions will – in part – be down to the fuel being produced in East London, practically next door to London City Airport and only a few miles from London Heathrow Airport. I also like that if this is adopted en-masse, it could potentially reduce our dependency on imported oil and we could see a home-grown fuel industry spring up that has the added bonus of reducing the amount of waste we have to send to landfill.
The biomass plant will use the Fischer-Tropsch process to turn the waste into fuel, and as an added bonus, will power itself and also put 20MW of electricity back into the grid, at the same time. Neat.
According to BA, “The first plant, being built in partnership with US-based green energy specialist Solena Group, is due to enter full production in 2015. Once completed, the London plant – costing £200 million to build – will convert up to 500,000 tonnes of waste a year into 16 million gallons of green jet fuel, enough to power 2 per cent of BA’s operation. The waste will come from food scraps and other household material such as grass and tree cuttings, agricultural and industrial waste.”
Of course 2 per cent sounds measly, which I guess it is in the grand scheme of things, but it is a step in the right direction and this is a pretty major innovation. I mean just imagine if every airline in the world were using the waste of the cities they are serving and producing their own ‘clean’ fuel right on their own doorsteps.
I do not condone the massive expansion of the airline industry, nor the way many of these low cost carriers are run (in particular the accident-waiting-to-happen that is Ryanair) and I do think we are jumping on a plane far too readily. However, air travel is an essential part of our modern lives and I think – if we’re honest – we would all miss it if it were gone. We certainly wouldn’t see the type of climate change and environmental summits that we see today – even if some of them are as useful as a hydroelectricity plant in the Sahara.
So can we envision a world where all of our planes – in fact all of our transport is running on waste? I doubt it. But this is a step toward tackling the increasing emissions from the airline industry while additionally securing our future energy supplies. Well done BA, let’s hope this works as well as you say it will.
In other airline news; The Major of London, Boris Johnson, has seen plans for his Thames Estuary Airport seriously dented, as the area earmarked for the development has just been included on a list of Nature Improvement Areas, throwing a huge green spanner into the planning application process. Oops.
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Sorry; no need to panic. I was just using some Daily Mail style hyperbole to get you to read my article.
You may think I’m exaggerating about the hyperbole, but trust me, I’m not. I have just been forwarded an article by this ‘news’paper telling us that wood burners will give you cancer. For real; read it here if you want.
So what is this information doing in an environmental blog? Well, in my opinion, wood burners are good for the planet: they use a renewable fuel, they use a fuel that’s carbon neutral, they use a fuel that can be sourced locally, plus they can replace or augment radiators in your home, lowering its carbon footprint.
So not just as an environmentalist, but also as a conscientious reader of the news, I am fundamentally opposed to articles such as the one in question, which turn a quite ordinary piece of news into the end of the world as we know it.
This reckless journalism by the Mail isn’t doing anyone any favours. Ok, agreed, it is reporting one of science’s latest findings; but telling us that breathing in smoke is bad for you? Well duh!? What a revelation that is!
What I find irresponsible is the fact that they use these findings to try and convince us that wood burners and open fires are evil. If they were that bad Santa would be long dead by now… and he’s not. Is he?
Now I’ve got no beef with the story itself, it is vaguely interesting and based on fact, but titling it ‘Wood-burning stoves can be as deadly as exhaust fumes by producing smoke that can cause heart disease’ is just a tad over the top isn’t it?
Fair enough, the author mentions health impacts associated with open fires in the developing world, but we already knew that burning fires inside homes comes with an element of risk.
It’s not until the last few paragraphs that the author actually gives us some useful information about how best to burn wood to avoid unnecessary smoke. Thanks for the advice. Seriously.
I would like to know what the reporter suggests for those of use who use wood burners and open fires so we don’t kill ourselves. Should we replace them with electric heating systems and then all laugh when he writes a piece moaning about the wind turbine erected near his house to help produce the extra electricity?
Gosh what a pile of nonsense. Wood burners are great, so long as you don’t start breathing in the smoke. Got that? Don’t breath the smoke; it’ll give you cancer, you know.
If you’re considering buying a wood burner or resuscitating that old open fire in the front room; go right ahead. It’s not just good for the natural environment, but it’s also good for your own personal environment: the ambiance created by burning wood in the corner is unbeatable. Don’t listen to these spoilsports who have nothing better to do than sensationalise the normal.
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Photo courtesy of Vladimir Tatarevic