Boeing takes flight in sustainability battle with carbon data cruncher

Analytics to grok impact of competing greener tech as industry seeks environmentally friendly path

US aerospace giant Boeing has released a data modeling tool designed to reveal the effects of a range of technologies that the industry hopes will reduce aviation's carbon emissions.

Because of the difficulties in electrifying aviation and finding alternative, more sustainable fuels, it has become a tough nut to crack in the mission to decarbonize transportation. Few alternatives exist for a population used to traversing thousands of kilometers over oceans with ease.

In an effort to better understand the impact of proposed solutions, the Seattle-based manufacturer has released the Boeing Cascade Climate Impact Model for public use. The data modeling tool identifies the effects of a range of sustainability solutions to reduce aviation's carbon emissions and can be found at Boeing's new Sustainable Aerospace Together hub.

The company promises that Cascade crunches the numbers on the full life cycle of alternate energy sources for aviation, including production and distribution of fuels, through to their usage. Data modeling also measures airplane fleet renewal, operational efficiency, renewable energy sources, future aircraft, and market-based measures as pathways to decarbonization.

The tool is designed to create a common framework among aviation, energy, finance, and policy teams in understanding the impact of technology decisions, said Boeing Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Raymond.

"By putting data first and sharing this model with the public, we are enabling collaboration, feedback and alignment across industry, government, and others who work together to achieve a more sustainable aerospace future," he said in a statement.

For example, the aviation industry is looking to introduce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), derived from plant-based oils, with the European Union set to introduce targets on SAF usage. Cascade shows that SAF will be the most significant contributor to reducing carbon emissions because it can be used in the existing fleet.

Although electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft might become a feasible alternative to the current hydrocarbon fuel, they are unlikely to have any significant impact before 2050 due to long lead times in developing, testing, and scaling the technologies, as well as changes to supply chains and airports, Boeing said.

Renewing fleets with best-in-class, fuel-efficient airplanes will significantly reduce emissions in coming years, it added.

The US, UK, Canada, and Singapore have announced plans to work together more effectively on the development of SAF. ®

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