Peak Aviation

Posted on May 22, 2012

5


The Swedish airline Skyways has declared bankruptcy. Of course I am sorry for all those who have lost their jobs as well as for the affected customers. However, I am not surprised. Back in 2009 we published an article in the journal Energy Policy in which we explained that global aviation had reached its maximal capacity. Here is the summary of our article ”Aviation fuel and future oil production scenarios”:

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 percent 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.

In its statistics covering oil use the International Energy Agency, IEA, states that we should regard ethanol and natural gas liquids as oil but these substances cannot be used as aviation fuel. The raw material for aviation fuel is crude oil and the IEA and Energy Information Agency, EIA, have both now recognized that we saw the highest rate of crude oil production during the period 2006-2008. Aviation fuel is the smallest fraction produced from crude oil and several refineries, e.g. such as Preemraff in Lysekil, Sweden, do not bother to separate that fraction. Instead, it is blended into diesel to improve the quality of that fuel.

From Peeking at Peak Oil
(Image is from Peeking at Peak Oil)

Aviation fuel is named “A1” and the specifications for this fuel are very strict. That is why one cannot blend new substances into it. In the section on transport in my book Peeking at Peak Oil I have described these problems in more detail. At the end of September it will be time for the aviation industry’s largest annual conference. ”The 18th World Route Development Forum” will be held in Abu Dhabi and I have been invited by the World Bank to attend and discuss Peak Oil and the future of aviation. On 7 June I will speak at a conference on “Biofuels now and in the future” organized by the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. I will also discuss this issue in that lecture.

(Swedish)
Det svenska flygbolaget Skyways har gått i konkurs. Självfallet beklagar jag alla ni som förlorat jobbet och självfallet tycker jag synd om alla drabbade resenärer, men jag är inte förvånad. Redan 2009 publicerade vi en artikel i Energy Policy där vi förklarade att det globala flyget nått maximal kapacitet och här är sammanfattningen av vår artikel ”Aviation fuel and future oil production scenarios”:

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 percent 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.

I statistic over oljeförbrukning anger IEA, International Energy Agency, att vi skall betrakta etanol och naturligt flytande gas som olja, men dessa komponenter kan inte användas som flygbränsle. Basen för flygfotogen är råolja och IEA och EIA har nu erkänt att vi hade den största råoljeproduktionen under perioden 2006 – 2008. Flygfotogen är den minsta komponenten av produkter från råolja och flera raffinaderier, t.ex. Preemraff i Lysekil, bryr sig inte om att ta ut den fraktionen utan blandar in den i diesel så att man får högre kvalitet på diesel.

(Bilden är från Peeking at Peak Oil)

Flygbränsle kallas för A1 och specifikationerna på bränslet är mycket strikt. Den medför att man inte kan blanda in nya komponenter. I avsnittet om transporter i boken ”Peeking at Peak Oil” har jag beskrivit dessa problem mer detaljerat. I slutet a september anordnas flygindustrins stora årliga konferens ”The 18th World Route Development Forum” i Abu Dhabi och jag har blivit inbjuden av Världsbanken att iskutera Peak Oil och flygets framtid. Den 7 juni pratar jag på en konferens om “Biodrivmedel nu och i framtidenen” som Kungliga Vetenskapsakademin ordnar och då kommer jag att diskutera en del av denna problematik.

Posted in: Uncategorized