Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
To show that synthetic diesel fuel made from plastic waste is viable for aviation, an adventurous pilot soon will fly from Sydney to London, about 10,000 nautical miles, using only aviation-grade diesel fuel made from waste plastic.
Pilot Jeremy Roswell will also be chasing a couple of records as he cruises solo at around 5,000 feet in a single-engine, high-wing, diesel-powered Cessna 182. The first record is flight time for Sydney to London in a plane of this type, and the second is to be the first pilot to fly an aircraft using synthetic fuel made from end-of-life plastics waste. The project is called “On Wings of Waste” and it developed after Roswell saw from the air the amount of pollution on land and sea. He is also concerned about the aviation industry using damaging fuels, and so became driven to testing a solution. He came across the Irish company Cynar PLC, which takes end-of-life plastic waste destined for a landfill and distills it into liquid diesel fuel using pyrolysis (oxygen-free) technology. Its first full scale End of Life Plastic to Diesel (ELPD) production facility already is operational in Ireland. Working with SITA/Suez Environment, a second plant has received planning permission in the UK and is now being planned. Cynar has a contract valued at more than 70 million pounds ($113.7 million) with SITA/Suez to set up a further 10 plants.
Cynar says its technology is sustainable, releasing no emissions during production and yielding a fuel that’s cleaner and of higher quality than conventional diesel. The fuel has been tested in motor vehicles but until now not in an aircraft. Roswell’s flight will require about 4,000 liters of the diesel fuel, which requires five metric tons of plastic waste to produce. In answer to critics asking if there is enough plastic waste to create a sustainable aviation fuel industry, Cynar CEO Michael Murray in an interview with BusinessGreen cited the huge amount of plastics
already in the environment, including landfills, and continuing consumer demand for more. Murray said 26 million metric tons of plastics go into U.S. landfills each year, while in Europe 15 million metric tons meet that fate. He noted that the fuel could be a viable alternative if the aviation industry adopts diesel engines, though it still needs testing and trials such as Roswell’s flight.
Aiming to take off in October
or November, Roswell will land to refuel in Darwin, Christmas Island, Sri Lanka, Oman, Jordan, and Malta, and should arrive in London six days after leaving Sydney. To prepare for flight segments as long as 13 hours, he has gone through rigorous testing by the firm Zerorisk International. Now 41, Roswell has been a pilot since he was 14 and among his many flying adventures and experiences he counts a flight across the Pacific in a small single-engine aircraft.