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In a fairly moribund environmental context, the aeronautics industry appears to be a bad student. Polluting (24.2 million tonnes of CO2 emitted in 2019 according to ADEME), it also causes rampant artificialization of soils, noise pollution and threatens biodiversity. The sector is increasingly turning to research into new fuels, such as hydrogen, to power its aircraft. A British company, Firefly, is exploring another route to making fuel in a more environmentally friendly way: hydrothermal liquefaction.
Wastewater, an unsuspected energy treasure?
Firefly is a pioneering companyin the exploitation of this process for aviation. Behind this somewhat barbaric term hides a technique that is actually quite simple to understand. It’s a chemical process that converts organic materials into liquid fuels or other useful chemicals. Here are the simplified steps:
- Use of biomass: first of all, it involves collecting different biomasses such as food residues, agricultural waste or wastewater. These latter are the basis of the reaction.
- Application of extreme conditions: mixed with l&# 8217;water and exposed to very high heat (from 250°C to 374°C) under high pressure, this biomass cooks to trigger the necessary chemical reaction.
- Chemical transformation: under these conditions, the biomass is transformed into a liquid very rich in hydrocarbons, very similar crude oil in its composition.
- Refining: the final stage, where this liquid is then processed and refined to produce fuels, such as biodiesel.
Grace Using this technique, Firefly succeeded in extracting crude oil and biochar, a form of coal derived from biomass and obtained through a pyrolysis process. According to his calculations, this new fuel has a very suitable carbon footprint compared to fossil fuels. Indeed, it would produce 92% fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
As wastewater is very abundant, this could represent a really interesting step forward for the industry. However, Firefly will have to go through the labyrinthine regulatory processin order to industrialize the production of its sustainable fuel. Indeed, SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuels) are subject to really strict regulations for several reasons. They must meet very rigorous safety and performance standards, be compatible with fuel distribution infrastructures and comply with international standards established by ATSM International and the ATSM Organization. ;international civil aviation.
Decarbonizing the aeronautics industry is a priority, as it has developed since the 1980s. Even if the path towards the application of this type of initiative is still long and strewn with regulatory and regulatory pitfalls. technical, these initiatives reassure about man's propensity to adapt his behavior. It's a small step, but it's still a step forward nonetheless.
- A British company, Firefly, has found a way to produce jet fuel from wastewater.
- Their technique is based on a process chemical called hydrothermal liquefaction.
- Even if this innovation is promising, global adoption is not for tomorrow.
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