ILA 2008: Embraer’s simple fixes to help save the planet

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The pressure to “GoGreen” applies to every industry worldwide, especially in aerospace, where the drive to reduce emissions is of prime importance. Phil Nasskau looks at the Green credentials of Brazil’s Embraer who is expanding its interests here at ILA


Aviation is seen by many outside of the industry as one of the world’s biggest polluters. Yet, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, transport contributes 24% of total emissions – and aviation only contributes 2%.~

Embraer’s director of Strategies and Technologies for the Environment, Graciliano Campos, takes a pessimistic view. “If no action is taken it is possible that the global surface warming could rise from its present 0.5ºC up to 4ºC by 2100. This is not definite, but there would be a 50% chance. This as accurate as we can be at the moment,” he says.

Campos says aviation has two areas of impact – local and global. Local impacts include Noise, NOx, CO and hydrocarbons, and are primarily produced by aircraft during take off and landing, as well as during ground operations. There are secondary effects caused by airport activity and road traffic to the airport.

 
Embraer is driving down emissions.

“There is a lot to be done, we don’t deny our contribution to emissions but there is so much that can be done in every sector,” says Campos. “If there was a global drive to replace all incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs, the worldwide drop in emissions would be about 3% - this is more than the entire aviation industry contributes to world-wide emissions.

Business Aviation contributes to the worldwide totals of CO2 by about 0.02%, which itself is 1% of the total aviation contribution.

According to BTS National Transportation Statistics from 2002, Aviation in 1965 was contributing 10,000 BTU/passenger-mile. In 2000 this figure had dropped to 4,000. As a comparison, automobiles have dropped from 4,200 to 3,800 over the same period. Air travel is now no less harmful to the environment as driving to the airport itself.

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Graciliano Campos, Embraer
According to website enviro.aero, aviation boasts occupancy rates above 70%, more than double the rate for cars. And that in the past 40 years, hydrocarbon emissions have been reduced by 90%, while NOx generated from aircraft engines has been reduced by 50% over the last 15 years.

“The gain in efficiency that business aviation gives to the economy is more than the loss of efficiency from reduced passenger loads,” claims Campos.

 “Reducing emissions is split three-fold. Short-term reductions that can be achieved through changing operations; mid-term reductions can be achieved through the development of infrastructure; and long-term cuts through technology. But public policy must be in line with these,” says Campos.

In the short-term, Campos believes a 10-12% reduction is possible if procedures are improved. These include continual descent approaches, as opposed to stepped descents within the confines of the local air traffic areas. “It’s an easy fix and only needs the crews and controllers to be retrained,” says Campos.

He believes that if systematic infrastructure is improved with the help of IT and more direct flight paths. Routes would become more efficient, with a potential reduction of 12% in emissions. The development of the European SESAR and US NextGen air traffic management systems will aid the cause.

“The mid-term and long-term reductions constitute a greater proportion of what manufacturers can do to reduce emissions through the introduction of technology,” says Campos.

“In the past 20 years we’ve been building the infrastructure. We’ve got current and up-to date design tools like CATIA; we are building digital mock-ups and making use of 3D modelling. For us this was necessary and justified by the optimisation in designing products. It’s now available for smaller scales and we’re taking advantage of our tools and knowledge base from the air transport sector and applying this to business aviation.

“Advances in engine technology such as the geared turbofan or the open rotor are still in the very early stages, but will be available in the near future. These will provide incremental gains in efficiency but they do not change the fact that aircraft do not have any practical alternatives to Kerosene. Kerosene is so hard to replace because it is so ideally suited to its role. It’s not very volatile in high temperatures – tanks on the ground can be as hot as 70ºC. It doesn’t freeze, assuming -56ºC at altitude, and it has a very high specific heat (energy),” explains Campos.

“Aviation has overcome so many obstacles since its start, I’m sure it will reach these. In the mid- to long-term there will be a sustainable bio fuel, something that doesn’t compete with food production,” he adds. Brazil has found one such source in the form of Ethanol, produced from sugar cane, where it does not compete with food production and is widely available to the automotive industry. Almost all cars produced in Brazil can run on Ethanol.

Embraer has also certified its agricultural Ipanema to fully run on Ethanol, a feat which the company claims is a first. “Gasoline will spontaneously explode at 10 atmospheres, whereas Ethanol doesn’t. Therefore you get more power at the same RPM, but you are using 30% more fuel to get a 7% power increase,” explains Campos.

But he says Ethanol is not a good fuel for jet engines. “It freezes at -20ºC; it’s not a lubricant and would be a gel at -56ºC. And it also has too much hydrogen in it, therefore it has only about 60% of the energy that Kerosene has. Range would be reduced dramatically as a result.

Campos says that the first challenge is to get the biofuel stable, and that the effects have to be looked at. How will the system cope with bio fuels? Embraer claims the Phenom 100 will have 10% lower emissions than older aircraft in the same segment, and be 33% more efficient than the previous generation. The Phenom 300 will be 12% and 25% respectively; the Legacy 600 is 26% and 28% respectively while the Lineage 1000 will be 20% and 50% respectively.

“We are investing huge amounts of cash into new technologies and improving efficiency. We’re using clean industrial processes. We were the first OEM to get ISO 14001 certification, which was awarded for our Sao Jose dos Campos facility in March 2000.

“We don’t have such strong financial support as other aerospace companies. We don’t feel we have the right to claim from the government as other companies do, as we’re in a less developed country. We are keen to highlight the level of commitment from our shareholders to deliver cash injections into research and development,” says Campos.


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