Australia’s airline Qantas begins to prepare for Peak Oil / Australiens flygbolag Qantas börjar förbereda sig för Peak Oil

Posted on April 13, 2012

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On 1 October 2009 Global Energy Systems at Uppsala University published an article in the journal Energy Policy titled, Aviation fuel and future oil production scenarios” (E. Nygren, K. Aleklett, M. Höök). That report of our research was an expansion of Emma Nygrens Honours project. What we stated was that there was considerable evidence that global aviation had reached its maximal capacity. We summarised our research results in this way:

“Most aviation fuels are jet fuels originating from crude oil. Crude oil must be refined to be useful and jet fuel is only one of many products that can be derived from crude oil. Jet fuel is extracted from the middle distillates fraction and competes, for example, with the production of diesel.

“Crude oil is a limited natural resource subject to depletion and several reports indicate that the world’s crude oil production is close to the maximum level and that it will start to decrease after reaching this maximum. A post Kyoto political agenda to reduce oil consumption will have the same effect on aviation fuel production as a natural decline in the crude oil production. On the other hand, it is predicted by the aviation industry that aviation traffic will keep on increasing.

“The industry has put ambitious goals on increases in fuel efficiency for the aviation fleet. Traffic is predicted to grow by 5% per year to 2026, fuel demand by about 3% per year. At the same time aviation fuel production is predicted to decrease by several per cent each year after the crude oil production peak is reached resulting in a substantial shortage of jet fuel by 2026. The aviation industry will have a hard time replacing this with fuel from other sources, even if air traffic remains at current levels.”

The World Bank was very interested in our article and realised that aviation had great challenges before it but elsewhere interest in this research was quite weak. The aviation industry itself has been fairly silent but now one airline has spoken out and made the following previously unthinkable announcement. It is Australia’s airline Qantas whose CEO Alan Joyce has stated, “We need to get ready for a future that is not based on traditional jet fuel or frankly we don’t have a future.”

In the future, few nations will be more dependent on a functioning airline than Australia and their government has now given a grant of $500,000 to Qantas to study if it is possible to use aviation fuel based on biofuel. The first flight using a 50-50% blend of normal aviation fuel and biological aviation fuel flew between Adelaide and Sydney. Naturally, the cost of the fuel was far higher than usual since they were forced to purchase the biologically-based fuel from the USA and freight it to Australia.

I am very happy that Qantas chose Adelaide as the destination for this first flight for it was in Adelaide that Michael Lardelli, Olle Qvennerstedt and I set up our “Camp Peak Oil Adelaide” in November 2010 and began to write the book “Peeking at Peak Oil”. It was also to Adelaide that Australia’s ABC TV came and filmed us when they produced their Catalyst programme segment on Peak Oil.

It was no accident that we chose Australia as the workplace where we began to write our book on Peak Oil. ASPO Australia and Bruce Robinson have done a fantastic job making politicians and others aware of our future with Peak Oil. In conjunction with the first flight using the new fuel Australia’s Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson said, “Qantas will investigate the production and commercial viability of sustainable aviation fuel in Australia with two key objectives. Firstly, a feed stock pathways study that will assess the long term viability of biofuels feed stock and supply chain pathways. Secondly, a refining and distribution capacity study to investigate how Australia as a nation can use existing refinery plants and fuel distribution infrastructure for aviation biofuel production”.

I have on several occasions been invited to Australia’s transport ministry and other federal authorities in Canberra to give presentations on Peak Oil. I have also made presentations to authorities in various Australian states. The fact that Australia’s transport ministry has someone who has Peak Oil within their sphere of responsibility shows that they are far ahead of other governments in the world. What we see happening in Australia is now evidence of this. For Sweden I can now state that five years with Maud Olofsson as Energy Minister has been five lost years with respect to Peak Oil.

(Swedish)

Den 1 oktober 2009 publicerade Globala energisystem vid Uppsala universitet en artikel i Energy Policy med titel ”Aviation fuel and future oil production scenarios” (E. Nygren, K. Aleklett, M. Höök). Den forskningsrapport som publicerades var en vidareutveckling av Emma Nygrens examensarbete och vad vi konstaterade var att mycket talade för att det globala flyget nått sin maximala kapacitet. Så här sammanfattade vi våra forskningsresultat:

Most aviation fuels are jet fuels originating from crude oil. Crude oil must be refined to be useful and jet fuel is only one of many products that can be derived from crude oil. Jet fuel is extracted from the middle distillates fraction and competes, for example, with the production of diesel.

Crude oil is a limited natural resource subject to depletion and several reports indicate that the world’s crude oil production is close to the maximum level and that it will start to decrease after reaching this maximum. A post Kyoto political agenda to reduce oil consumption will have the same effect on aviation fuel production as a natural decline in the crude oil production. On the other hand, it is predicted by the aviation industry that aviation traffic will keep on increasing.

The industry has put ambitious goals on increases in fuel efficiency for the aviation fleet. Traffic is predicted to grow by 5% per year to 2026, fuel demand by about 3% per year. At the same time aviation fuel production is predicted to decrease by several per cent each year after the crude oil production peak is reached resulting in a substantial shortage of jet fuel by 2026. The aviation industry will have a hard time replacing this with fuel from other sources, even if air traffic remains at current levels

Världsbanken blev mycket intresserad av vår artikel och insåg också att flyget hade stora problem framför sig, men för övrigt var det ganska svalt intresse. Vad det gäller flygindustrin har man varit ganska tysta, men nu har ett flygbolag tagit till orda och gjort följande otänkbara uttalanden och det är det Australienska flygbolaget Qantas och deras verkställande direktör Alan Joyce: “We need to get ready for a future that is not based on traditional jet fuel or frankly we don’t have a future.”

Få länder är i framtiden mer beroende av ett fungerande flyg än Australien och dess regering har nu beviljat Qantas ett bidrag på $500,000 för att studera om det är möjligt att använda flygbränsle som är biobaserat. Den första flygningen där man hade 50-50 % vanligt flygbränsle och biologiskt flygbränsle gick mellan Adelaide och Sydney. Kostnaden var naturligtvis mycket högre än vanligt flygbränsle eftersom man tvingades köpt in det biobaserade bränslet från USA och sedan fraktat det till Australien.

Det känns fantastisk att Qantas just valde Adelaide som destination för denna första flygning. Det var just i Adelaide som Michael Lardelli, Olle Qvennerstedt och jag i november 2010 satte upp vårt ”Camp Peak Oil Adelaide” och började skriva boken ”Peeking at Peak Oil”. Det var också till Adelaide som Australisk TV kom och filmade oss då man gjorde programmet om Peak Oil.

Det är inte en tillfällighet att vi valde Australien som arbetsplats för att börja skriva boken om Peak Oil. ASPO Australia och Bruce Robinson har gjort ett fantastiskt arbete för att göra politiker med flera medvetna om vår framtid med Peak Oil. I samband med den första flygningen gjord Australiens energiminister Martin Ferguson följande uttalande: “Qantas will investigate the production and commercial viability of sustainable aviation fuel in Australia with two key objectives. Firstly, a feed stock pathways study that will assess the long term viability of biofuels feed stock and supply chain pathways. Secondly, a refining and distribution capacity study to investigate how Australia as a nation can use existing refinery plants and fuel distribution infrastructure for aviation biofuel production”.

Jag har flera gånger blivit inbjuden till Australiens transportministerium och andra federala myndigheter i Canberra för att hålla föredrag om Peak Oil, men också till olika provinsiella myndigheter. Det faktum att Australiens transportministerium har en person som har Peak Oil som ansvarsområde visar att man ligger långt före många andra regeringar i världen. Det vi ser nu är ett bevis på detta. Vad det gäller Sverige kan jag nu konstatera att 5 år med Maud Olofsson som energiminister har varit fem förlorade år vad det gäller Peak Oil.

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