Heathrow says air passenger duty should be invested in sustainable fuels

Heathrow Airport has called on UN’s aviation body ICAO to set targets for the use of sustainable fuels in aviation and for the government to invest some of the £4bn annual revenue raised from Air Passenger Duty to scale-up its production.

Air passenger duty is a tax charged by airlines on all economy flights that leave the UK. It’s currently £26 per person on short-haul economy flight to most of Europe, and £150 per person on long haul flights.

Heathrow is on course to have 81 million passengers pass through by the end of 2019.

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye said: ‘We are clear that expansion at Heathrow will not come at a cost to the environment, which is why we are working with the industry and government to develop environmental targets that will ensure growth is managed sustainably both now and with expansion.’

Earlier this year, the UK Committee for Climate Change report said synthetic fuels could provide the solution to aviation emissions but are ‘thermodynamically and economically challenging.’

Synthetic fuels are created by taking electrons from electricity and putting them into a liquid form that can then be used in a jet’s engine.

The idea is that by using renewable electricity in the process, the end result can be much cleaner than fossil fuel but at the moment it’s extremely energy-intensive to produce.

115 terawatt hours (TWh) of synthetic jet fuel would require around 200 TWh of zero-carbon electricity, which is the equivalent to a further 33% of the total UK electricity generation requirements. Meaning the UK would have to massively upscale its renewable energy generation to meet the demand and create a surplus.

However, the report said if the challenges around synthetic fuels could be resolved it could play a large role in low emission aviation.

Earlier this year, Heathrow’s third runway plans were challenged in the High Court by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, five local authorities, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who failed to overturn the government’s go-ahead to an expansion that will see passenger numbers almost double from 80 million to 130 million a year.

In related news, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced in May that they will buy 75,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel a year for the next 10 years.

They will buy the fuel from SkyNRG who will develop Europe’s first dedicated plant for the production of sustainable airline fuel (SAF) in Delfzijl in The Netherlands.

They say it will be capable of producing the fuels bioLPG and naphtha primarily using regional waste and residue streams as feedstock.

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