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Case Title:

Alternative Fuels: A Boon to the Aviation Industry?

Publication Year : 2010

Authors: S Bhattacharya, S Chaudhuri and A Syed

Industry: Oil and Natural Gas


Case Code: IPD0103IRC

Teaching Note: Not Available

Structured Assignment: Not Available

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With the onset of globalisation, air travel has become one of the indispensable modes of transport. Due to the increasing demand, the number of flights operating on a daily basis has also increased significantly thereby enhancing the rate of air pollution. The planes emit harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and various nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. These gases result in the formation of contrails which act as a blanket over the atmosphere preventing the heat from escaping into the outer space. These contrails have a similar appearance as natural cirrus clouds which also have an insulating effect resulting in increased temperature levels. To stop the increasing green house effect, environmentalists have started pressing the aviation industry to find alternative fuels which would significantly reduce the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This led to the discovery of alternative fuels such as hydrogen, methane, ethanol, synthetic fuel, biofuel and algal fuel. Though these fuels helped to minimise the emission of carbon dioxide to a considerable extent, these fuels were found to suffer from some inherent drawbacks which raised questions on their long-term sustainability. Huge manufacturing costs and storage difficulties were some of the major problems which hindered their wide-spread use. Though algal fuel seemed the most suitable alternative fuel but blends of synthetic fuel with jet fuel and biofuel could also be considered. The development process of these alternative fuels are in a nascent stage, but if extensive research in this horizon is continued, one day a suitable alternative fuel may be discovered which would surely act as a replacement for the conventional jet fuels.

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To analyse the role of the aviation industry in global warming.
  • To estimate the merits and demerits of alternative fuels in comparison to the conventional jet fuels.
  • To analyse the challenges faced by these alternative fuels in order to sustain in the long-run.

Keywords :  Atmospheric pollution, Greenhouse effect, Bio fuels, Synthetic fuels, Contrails, Renewable energy sources, Conventional fuels, Crude petroleum oil, Biodegradable elements, Cryogenic fuels, Kyoto Protocol, Commercial viability, Environment-friendly fuels, Carbon footprint

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