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Climate Change

Airlines invest in chemistry as a way to decarbonize

Sustainable aviation fuel and direct air capture win big bucks from the aviation industry

by Craig Bettenhausen
November 22, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 42


A person points at an industrial building with mountains in the background while explaining something to another person.
Credit: Carbon Engineering
Carbon Engineering CEO Daniel Friedmann shows Airbus executive Karine Guenan the firm's direct air capture research facility in Squamish, British Columbia.

The airline industry has committed a lot of funds for its decarbonization goals this year, and that trend continues. Airbus and Air Canada have invested in the direct air capture (DAC) firm Carbon Engineering, and Etihad Airways has signed a long-term pact with the biofuel maker World Energy for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Both of Carbon Engineering’s deals expand on existing partnerships. A $5 million investment from Air Canada builds on a collaboration agreement the firms signed last year. And Airbus’s investment, of undisclosed amount, follows the purchase earlier this year of 400,000 metric tons (t) of carbon capture and sequestration credits from 1PointFive, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum that is working with Carbon Engineering on a commercial-scale DAC plant in West Texas.

Carbon Engineering removes CO2 from the atmosphere by reacting it with potassium hydroxide to form potassium carbonate and then releasing the gas in concentrated form.

Separately, World Energy signed a SAF supply agreement with Etihad that will use a carbon credit trading method called “book and claim.” In that system, the actual SAF is used by planes departing from Los Angeles International Airport, but Etihad purchases the carbon credits and applies them to flights elsewhere. The first such flight happened Nov. 13, carrying delegates from Washington, DC, to Abu Dhabi to attend the COP27 climate negotiations. Etihad says the arrangement resulted in a CO2 emissions reduction of 250 t.



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