19:30 PM

From Oilfield to Take-off: Tracking the Costs of Aviation

Pitt engineer explores avenues for a greener aviation industry in first-ever study

Traveling by airplane costs far more than just a ticket. 

As the demand for aviation-based trade and travel continues to grow in a post-pandemic world, so does its effect on the environment. In response to mounting climate concerns, the aviation industry has been exploring different avenues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

A team of researchers led by Mohammed Masnadi, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, completed a first-ever life cycle assessment (LCA) that allows researchers to quantify and evaluate the variety of emissions connected to jet fuels. 

“This is a step forward for predicting and creating a sustainable direction of the aviation industry,” Masnadi said.

Lower carbon aviation fuel (LCAF) is a petroleum-based jet fuel that emits emissions below the recommended baseline. Until recently, consistent and accurate life cycle assessments (LCA) of LCAF have been limited due to lack of geographical data and inconsistent assumptions of its allocation method which resulted in a wide range of estimates of its life cycle. 

To calculate the LCA, the team used public and commercial global data and linked them to engineering-based tools like the Oil Production Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator (OPGEE), Crude Oil Pipeline Transportation Emissions Model (COPTEM), and Petroleum Refinery Life Cycle Inventory Model. This approach aided researchers in estimating carbon intensities of jet fuel production from different oil fields, transportation means and refining technologies. 

The article, “Understanding variability in petroleum jet fuel life cycle greenhouse gas emissions to inform aviation decarbonization,” was published in the journal Nature Communications.