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The first transatlantic flight to use Virgin Atlantic’s “green” fuel

The first transatlantic flight to use Virgin Atlantic’s “green” fuel

(Londres) La compagnie aérienne britannique Virgin Atlantic opère mardi un vol transatlantique propulsé intégralement aux carburants dits durables, une première, même si les organisations écologistes qualifient l’opération de « verdissement de façade » (« greenwashing »).

L’avion a décollé de l’aéroport londonien d’Heathrow vers 6 h 50 (heure de l’Est) et doit arriver à celui de JFK à New York à 14 h 30 (heure de l’Est).

Il est le premier « fonctionnant 100 % aux carburants dits durables sur les deux moteurs, par une compagnie aérienne commerciale, sur un trajet long courrier », précise Virgin dans un communiqué.

La compagnie précise toutefois qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un vol commercial, donc sans passager n’ayant payé un billet ni aucun chargement de fret.

Le milliardaire britannique Richard Branson, fondateur de la compagnie, s’est dit « très fier d’être à bord » du vol au côté des équipes « qui ont travaillé ensemble pour tracer la voie de la décarbonation de l’aviation long-courrier », selon Virgin Atlantic.

« Le vol historique d’aujourd’hui […] It shows how we can decarbonise transport and allow passengers to continue flying when and where they want,” Transport Minister Mark Harper welcomed, in the press release.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) produced from used oil, wood scraps or algae, as well as kerosene (up to 50%) can be used in existing aircraft. They are considered the main lever for decarbonizing the sector for decades to come, but their production is still in their infancy and very expensive.

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In addition, they are used in combustion engines that continue to generate carbon dioxide2Carbon removal occurs upstream, through reuse of plant materials rather than extraction of hydrocarbons.

The flight takes place on a Boeing 787 aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce engines that operate only on this fuel.

“Technological impasse”

Last December, the British government announced support of “up to one million pounds” for this project led by the airline in cooperation with the University of Sheffield, the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, and the giant hydrocarbon company BP.

The environmental group Stay Grounded described the process as “greening the façade” in a press release on Monday.

“It is no coincidence that this trip takes place two days before the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai,” says Stay Grounded. “While the world’s attention is focused on one flight, there are 100,000 flights using fossil fuels every day. Alternatives are just a drop in the ocean of hydrocarbons.

Finley Asher, an aerospace engineer who worked for Rolls-Royce, explains to Stay Grounded that CDA technology, called SAF in English, is a “technological dead end” because it cannot be developed on a sufficient scale to make a difference.

“The waste used as raw materials to make bio-kerosene from this flight is not available in large enough quantities to have a significant impact on aviation emissions,” AFP added.s Doug Parr, scientist at Greenpeace UK.

“In addition, CO2 From direct air capture and the green hydrogen produced by electrolysis – both of which are used to make e-kerosene – they are very expensive to produce. […] He added: “The only effective way to address aviation emissions in the short term is to address demand, and any suggestion to the contrary is a utopian fantasy.”

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