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Honeywell unveils new ethanol-to-jet fuel technology

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Tech conglomerate Honeywell (NASDAQ:HON) has developed a new processing method to convert corn-based, cellulosic, or sugar-based ethanol into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

  • Honeywell has designed a new ethanol-to-jet fuel (ETJ) processing technology.
  • The new solution is estimated to reduce jet fuel greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.
  • There is increased demand for SAF as it is considered a key driver for decarbonisation in the aviation sector.

Honeywell said that ethanol constitutes a widely available and economically viable feedstock for SAF, compared to more traditional ones such as vegetable oils, animal fats and waste oils. 

How the technology works

Honeywell’s solution is expected to deliver more efficient and lower carbon aviation fuel by using new heat management capabilities. 

The technology can be built using a modular approach, cutting labour and construction costs as well as speeding up installation. Honeywell said that using a modular approach can save a year of building capacity in comparison to traditional construction methods.

Ethanol as a fuel source is lower emissions than fossil fuel

Honeywell estimated that jet fuel produced with the new technology will cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% on a total lifecycle basis, compared to traditional fuels.

According to an analysis by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, GHG emissions can even result in negative overall emissions if or when ETJ fuel conversion is combined with carbon capture technologies.

Barry Glickman, vice president and general manager at Honeywell Sustainable Technology Solutions, said: “Honeywell pioneered SAF production with its Ecofining technology, and our new ethanol-to-jet fuel process builds on that original innovation to support the global aviation sector’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions and meet SAF production targets with an abundant feedstock like ethanol.”

Governments and industry bet on SAF to meet net zero goals

The airline industry  is a significant source of emissions.  accounting for 2.5% of GHG emissions per year. The sector has particular challenges due to where emissions are released in the atmosphere, and demand for air travel continues to grow. SAF is considered one of the main solutions to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

There are questions around the sustainability of SAF itself, especially when produced from food or animal sources. 

Nonetheless, a number of governments are supporting the uptake of sustainable fuels. For example, the US plans to meet all national aviation fuel demand with SAF by 2050. The European Council has pledged to impose that airports use SAF for at least 63% of their fuel needs.

Energy companies in the private sector, such as BP (LSE:BP),  are also getting involved. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), investments into SAF are expected to push production from the current 125 million litres to 5 billion by 2025. Government incentives are estimated to support the production of 30 billion litres by the end of the decade.

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