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New tech and business models for fossil-free aviation

Aviation accounts for around five per cent of Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions. The Swedish aviation strategy states that aviation shall contribute to the goal of Sweden becoming one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare states. To achieve this requires both technical and business innovation, and RISE is currently pursuing several research projects that in various ways contribute to the changeover to fossil-free aviation.

In the short and medium term, bio-jet fuel can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. In the long term, electric aviation will be a necessary complement. RISE has previously shown that, for example, bio-oil from the forest raw material lignin could represent a competitive alternative for the production of bio-jet fuel, and the institute is operating several test and demonstration facilities where sustainable aviation fuels can be produced on a smaller scale, with locations in Bäckhammar, Piteå, Örnsköldsvik and Södertälje. However, as the cost of bio-jet fuel is still higher than that of regular jet fuel, the market conditions need to change in order to create increased demand and production.

– We need to work with developing both the technology and new business models. We have deliberately worked to broaden our competence and have recruited experts to assist with the technical development and the service and regulatory innovation required to eliminate the existing obstacles to Swedish aviation becoming fossil-free, says Markus Norström, business and innovation manager for Energy and Bio-based Economy at RISE.

In the project Från flis till flygplan i Småland (From wood chips to aircraft in Småland), which is funded in part by the Swedish Energy Agency, RISE aims to, in cooperation with KLM, SkyNRG and Södra, among others, investigate the feasibility of producing sustainable aviation fuels in Småland.

– Sweden has a unique opportunity to take the lead in terms of the resource-efficient production of bio-jet fuel based on the sustainable residual flows available within forestry and the pulp and paper industries, says Johanna Mossberg, focus area manager for fossil-free transport at RISE and project manager for Från flis till flygbränsle i Småland.

In parallel RISE, SAS and Swedavia, with support from the Swedish Energy Agency, have started the innovation cluster Fossilfria Flygtransporter 2045 (Fossil-free Air Transport 2045). The cluster will involve regions, industry representatives, airports and airlines, biofuel producers and business developers. The aim is to gather actors from the entire value chain and develop a joint plan, both in terms of technical innovations and business models and services that will make it more interesting to invest in the production of bio-jet fuel.

– We want all those who share the goal of more sustainable aviation to join us. This is not a one-man show. In order to bring about a successful changeover we need to collaborate and all pull in the same direction, says Maria Fiskerud, project manager for Fossilfria Flygtransporter 2045 and expert advisor to the government inquiry into how the use of sustainable aviation fuels can be promoted.

Research project for fossil-free aviation

  • RISE will conduct a preparatory study together with, among others, BRA, Sveaskog and Luleå University of Technology with the aim of, hopefully within a few years, producing and testing bio-jet fuel based on Swedish forest residues – as well as testing the fuel on commercial flights in Sweden. The project is funded in part by the Swedish Energy Agency.
  • The RISE subsidiary RISE Processum is working to develop and demonstrate an industrially applicable process for the production of microbial oil that can be processed into medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids, and from there to hydrocarbons that can go to make aviation fuel. The project is funded in part by the Swedish Energy Agency.
  • In Forestry2Jet, RISE works together with COWI, Fly Green Fund and SEKAB, among others, to identify opportunities for the domestic and sustainable production of bio-jet fuels. This is achieved through an evaluation of technology tracks to identify the potential and challenges for large-scale and continuous production. The project primarily focuses on the process “Alcohol to Jet”, where ethanol is produced from forest waste and then converted into bio-jet fuel through a catalytic process. The project is funded in part by the Swedish Energy Agency.
  • In the project ELISE, RISE partners with Chalmers and the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration (LFV), to produce a plan for the development of electric planes in Sweden. The project is financed by Vinnova.
  • Through the project Skapa förutsättningar för hållbara flygtransporter (Creating conditions for sustainable air transport), RISE, SAS och Swedavia will gather the knowledge and competence found within different projects spread across the various actors in the value chain and produce a national roadmap to ensure that Sweden has fossil-free air transport by 2045. This will be achieved, for example, by developing a common future and market analysis where actors along the entire value chain have jointly identified both obstacles and opportunities. The project is funded in part by the Swedish Energy Agency.
  • RISE is also active within Sweden’s national strategic innovation programme for aeronautics, Innovair.
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Markus Norström

Affärs- och innovationschef

+46 10 516 58 84

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Published: 2018-12-03