Airbus Joins Forces With Seven Airlines On Carbon Capture Initiative

Credit: Carbon Engineering

Airbus and seven major airline groups will jointly explore the potential of a technology called direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS), in which CO2 emissions are removed from the air using high-powered fans and then securely stored underground in saline formations.

Air Canada, Air France-KLM, easyJet, International Airlines Group (IAG), LATAM Airlines Group, Lufthansa Group and Virgin Atlantic will work with Airbus to negotiate the pre-purchase of carbon-removal credits, covering 400,000 tonnes of DACCS emissions reductions over the period from 2025 through to 2028. These credits will be secured through DACCS specialist 1PointFive.

Airbus initiated the group purchase after forming a partnership with 1PointFive, which is aiming to recycle the captured carbon into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

When asked why the airlines would want to acquire the credits through Airbus, easyJet sustainability director Jane Ashton said DACCS is a “nascent technology,” so collaboration with Airbus and other airlines is a way that the industry can get involved at an early stage in DACCS’ development.

Stan Shparberg, Airbus' head of marketing, added that this collaboration forms part of Airbus’ own sustainability strategy, rather than being a business-development area.

However, DACCS is a new area for aviation and Airbus Head of Sustainability & Environment Nicolas Chretien noted there is no international framework for negative emissions. This means that the DACCS credits may not be recognized under the European Union emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) or the ICAO/United Nations CORSIA initiative until the second half of the decade.

“Today direct air carbon capture and storage is not recognized under CORSIA,” 1PointFive International President Steve Kelly confirmed, speaking at a Farnborough Airshow press conference organized by Airbus on July 18.

Kelly said the United Nations will first need to reach agreement on a long-term climate goal for the global aviation sector, which will be discussed this September and October in Montreal, noting that this will hopefully institutionalize the industry’s net zero strategy. Once this has been established, the role of DACCS could be discussed.

Acceptance under the EU ETS will require a different approach and there is a “dedicated agenda” that 1PointFive is looking at. “We still are hopeful that we should be able to bring direct our carbon capture and storage onto the EU ETS, probably towards the second half of this decade,” Kelly said.

The idea behind this initiative is that DACCS would allow the aviation sector to extract emissions directly from atmospheric air. This would be a top-up measure in addition to other CO2 reductions, such as SAF, to address remaining emissions that cannot be directly eliminated.

DACCS has been recognized by climate scientists, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“In addition to CO2 capture and storage, the technology opens up very interesting perspectives for the production of synthetic sustainable aviation fuel,” Air France-KLM VP of Sustainability Fatima da Gloria de Sousa said.

1PointFive , which is a subsidiary of Occidental’s Low Carbon Ventures business, is responsible for the deployment of direct air capture company Carbon Engineering. These companies will start constructing a DACCS facility in Texas later this year, ready for launch in 2024. Once operational, they claim the facility will be able to remove 1 million tonnes of carbon per year.

The panelists were quizzed on whether storing carbon emissions is the equivalent of landfill and on whether there might be a risk of the storage being compromised. They said that the processes involved are well-understood and capturing the carbon is a building block towards using the emissions for sustainable fuel.

Airbus is aiming to be carbon neutral across all its aircraft production plans by 2030. The airframer has already committed to 400,000 tonnes of DACCS emissions reductions over the period from 2025 through to 2028, with options to extend this volume in future. No pricing was disclosed, but Chretien from Airbus said that a large buyers’ alliance means the companies can secure a better price than individual efforts.

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.