Scaling up Direct Air Capture

July 20, 2022

Why is Direct Air Capture so essential to the decarbonisation of aviation?

Currently, aircraft rely almost exclusively on fossil fuels to be able to fly thereby contributing to climate change. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) offer a viable alternative but currently only account for 0.05% of aviation fuel supply. Therefore, the European Commission (EC) has proposed a SAF mandate known as ReFuelEU. Under this mandate, fuel suppliers will have to supply an increasing share of SAFs at Union airports, from 2025. 

SAFs can be advanced biofuels or e-kerosene (otherwise known as synthetic kerosene, or electrofuels).  Of these fuels, e-kerosene, made by combining hydrogen and CO2, provides the most scalable option and should be supported by policy. But to produce e-kerosene, you need CO2 and it is crucial that we use sustainable carbon feedstocks. To be sustainable, the CO2 has to come from the atmosphere either via sustainable biomass or via a technology known as Direct Air Capture (DAC).

To demonstrate that in the longer term, only DAC has the potential to sustainably meet the needs of e-kerosene production, Transport & Environment (T&E) commissioned Ricardo to conduct a study to analyse the feedstock availability of fossil and biogenic CO2 and to compare it with DAC.

The study shows that fossil sources (industry and power) and biomass will not be enough to fulfil the demand for CO2. Fossil sources are expected to come from industries that will decarbonise and any captured CO2 will be sent to storage. Biogenic CO2 is limited in supply as about half will be sent to storage. To meet demand, the study shows that 281-442 MtCO2 from direct air capture will be required by 2050. DAC will start to supply CO2 in 2030 and overtake other carbon sources as the main source by 2035-2040 depending on the scenario.

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