Virgin Atlantic saves 100,000 tonnes of CO2 with new fuel efficiency system

By RTCC Staff

New computer systems could save airlines 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, according to Virgin Atlantic’s latest sustainability report.

The company have estimated the new software, installed in July 2012, will reduce its fuel emissions by 92,000 tonnes and save them £20 million each year. The emissions saved are the equivalent of taking around 30,000 cars of the UK’s roads.

The software pinpoints areas where aircraft can be used more efficiently.

Aviation is currently responsible for around 2% of global emissions. These emissions are considered by the UN under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

While airlines have committed to an emissions reduction target of 50% by 2050, compared to 2005, under ICAO, this is currently a voluntary target and is not considered under the remit of the legally binding UN climate convention, the UNFCCC.

With limited action on aviation, last year the EU brought the industry into its own emissions trading scheme, which caused controversy among governments and industry groups around the world.

Airlines are considering many ways of meeting the ICAO targets, including carbon trading and the use of alternative fuels, predominately biofuels.

Fuel efficiency will also play a role, and is considered the low hanging fruit for many airlines.

In its third sustainability report, Virgin Atlantic announced it was on target to hit its own carbon reduction target of 30% between 2007 and 2020.

“An airline striving to be green is not a contradiction in terms that people may think,” said Steve Ridgway, Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive.

“Fuel efficiency is the most crucial pillar in Virgin Atlantic’s sustainability plans, and in the last 12 months the airline has moved forward rapidly with a number of change and operational improvements.”

The new software can monitor how arrival delays can increase the amount of fuel burnt; how flight plans, pilot techniques and maintenance can affect efficiency; and how the activity on the ground can also impact the amount of fuel used.

In all it analyses 300 different points during the flight to identify where savings can be made.

The airline’s report also announced the introduction of seven new aircraft, which are estimated to be 15% more fuel efficient than older planes used by Virgin Atlantic.

The company also reaffirmed the continuation of its work researching alternative aviation fuel, in cooperation with New Zealand based company LanzaTech, which would use waste gases from industrial steel production.

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