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The rapid slide in oil prices, down 41% since June, has left the aviation industry struggling to defend its continuing high fuel surcharges and reports of record profits, writes Andrew Murphy. Here is IATA’s director general, Tony Tyler, updating his stance on oil prices in light of recent developments:
Reuters reported in November 2014: “Lower jet fuel prices, which make up around one-third of the cost base of airlines, would take time to filter through due to hedging strategies, IATA said. ‘And it could even be an indicator of difficulties ahead if the fall is driven by declining demand for oil rather than rising supply capacity,’ Tyler said.”
While in March 2012 he was singing a different tune: “The risk of a worsening Eurozone crisis has been replaced by an equally toxic risk – rising oil prices. Already the damage is being felt with a downgrade in industry profits to $3.0 billion,” Tyler said.
However, for those of us concerned about the climate impact of aviation, there is no confusion – lower oil prices could fatally undermine the drive towards more efficient flying. Two recent reports show that, even when prices were above $100 dollars a barrel, the aviation industry was not able to acheive its own goal of 1.5% fleet efficiency improvement per annum. A report from the German-based Atmosfair found that the efficiency of the world’s largest airlines was around 1% over the past year while a report from the ICCT found that domestic US aviation saw zero net improvement in its efficiency in 2013.
With oil today falling to $66 a barrel, there is a real risk that airline operators will hold off investing on more efficient aircraft and aircraft manufactures will resist investing in a new generation of even more efficient aircraft. Purchasing aircraft, or the R&D for developing more efficient ones, is not cheap and the industry needs certainty that such investments will pay off – wild flucations in oil prices are a barrier to this. We now risk moving further way from the IATA goal of 1.5% efficiency improvement per annum and ICAO’s even more ambitious goal of 2% per annum. While the drop in the price of oil may not last forever, any delay in improving efficiency will further fuel the increase in aviation emissions, which are already predicted to increase by between 60% and 80% by 2026 due to passenger growth of 4% per annum.
ICAO is working to develop a market-based mechanism. However, even if it is approved at its next Assembly in 2016, it will be 2020 before it comes into force. As the climate cannot wait six more years, we need the new European Commission to use 2015 to set out a credible path to reducing aviation emission and adopting measures that will encourage greater efficiency. This should include a revision of the EU ETS for the 25% of Europe’s aviation emissions that are still covered by this scheme since “stop the clock” so that it sends a real price signal to industry. It should also include an amendment of the Energy Taxation Directive so that aviation, like every other transport sector, is subject to fuel duty.
A 5-partner consortium led by ABB has launched a €8.4-million (US$10.5-million) project, co-funded 50% by the European Union, to install a corridor of high-quality fast chargers along key European motorways until the end of 2015. In addition to ABB, the consortium includes the Dutch e-mobility operator and retailer Fastned B.V.; the Danish e-mobility operator CLEVER A/S; the Swedish public utility and e-mobility operator Öresundskraft AB; and the German Testing and Certification Institute VDE Prüf-und Zertifizierungsinstitut GmbH.
The aim of the ELECTRIC project is to create an open-access fast-charging corridor situated along major motorways connecting Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands via a total of 155 chargers, with up to 30 in the Netherlands, 23 in Denmark, 35 in Sweden and 67 in Germany.
Together the partners expect that this corridor resulting from ELECTRIC will help accelerate electric vehicle uptake in the involved Member States and the focus on interoperability, sustainable infrastructure setup and network planning alongside infrastructure deployment.
The first charging stations co-funded are already in place and ready to use in Denmark - operated by CLEVER A/S and in the Netherlands by Fastned B.V. The partners expect to complete the open access fast charging corridor by the end of December 2015.
ELECTRIC is funded by the the “Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T)”. (Earlier post.) Via TEN-T the European Union contributes to the internal market in order to harmonize and better connect transport systems in Europe. The objective of the TEN-T programme is to co-fund investments in transport infrastructure in order to ameliorate the European Transport Networks. The total budget of this project amounts to about 8.4 million euros.
In a new report, Lux Research analysts have examined the costs and availability of cellulosic biomass sources for use as feedstock in bio-based fuels and chemicals. They found that while there are 2.4 billion tons of cellulosic biomass available today—led by 1.2 billion tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) costs vary widely. Corn stover costs $91/MT, palm fruit bunches and fronds vary from $75/MT to $105/MT, while wood residues at $33/MT and bagasse $38/MT.
MSW is a wildcard—it can have negative costs of up to $55/MT due to tipping fees, but is more challenging to convert than other biomass feedstocks. To put the cost in perspective, an $80/MT feedstock converted to fuels at typical yield, adds $1/gallon to fuel cost.
Cost and local availability are the two most important metrics when analyzing the feasibility of cellulosic biomass options. Despite cellulosic feedstocks’ potential, too many business plans today are still built around unrealistically low feedstock costs, failing to take into account the value of alternative uses, or rising costs as producers prove feedstock value.—Andrew Soare, Lux Research Senior Analyst
Lux Research analysts examined the cost and availability of eight cellulosic biomass sources. Among their findings:
Local availability is key. Due to transportation costs, plants need local biomass to be viable. Using a radius distance of 50 km, municipal solid waste is the most plentiful at 1.2 million MT. Corn stover is the next most abundant at 800,000 dry MT; other sources range between 250,000 MT and 350,000 MT.
Wood residues and sugarcane bagasse are the two cheapest cellulosic biomass resources, costing about 50% less than other sources and can yield 241 million MT. Wheat straw offers 268 million MT, while rice straw is even more plentiful at 642 million MT.
MSW is the cheapest cellulosic source with authorities willing to pay an average $55 per MT for its disposal. However, it is unlikely that its price will always remain negative, as feedstock cost will increase significantly as successful producers come online.
In conjunction with the start of sales of Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell vehicle in Japan (earlier post), Fujitsu launched a hydrogen station data management service, the first in Japan, enabling people to access real-time information on the location and hours of operation of hydrogen stations, both stationary and mobile.
The service uses the Fujitsu Intelligent Society Solution SPATIOWL cloud service to integrate information on the location of hydrogen stations and operating hours input by registered hydrogen suppliers. Information on the hydrogen stations is then transmitted in real time by car companies, through their data centers, to the car navigation systems and smartphones of fuel-cell vehicle users.
For the Mirai fuel-cell vehicle and the hydrogen station application, for example, Toyota is providing a special application, Hydrogen Station List, for the navigation system included in its T-Connect Data Communication Module (DCM) package, as well as a “Pocket Mirai” smartphone application.
The service is intended to help people with fuel-cell vehicles drive with greater peace of mind and contribute to a greater level of convenience with fuel-cell vehicles, encouraging their broader use.
To meet the needs of drivers, Fujitsu plans to continue developing the service to in line with the needs of car makers and hydrogen suppliers, and aims to make driving fuel-cell vehicles and using hydrogen stations more convenient and wide-spread.
Fujitsu envisions that there will be growing demand for hydrogen stations, both in Japan and around the world. Two types of hydrogen stations are expected: fixed locations or mobile units. Conveying the information on the location of these stations and their hours of operation, both managed in an integrated form, enables convenience for the user.
SPATIOWL. Fujitsu launched SPATIOWL in June 2011 in and outside of Japan as a cloud service that uses location data to provide new forms of added value. As a separate example, Fujitsu recently announced it had started providing SPATIOWL services to PT. Marga Utama Nusantara, a toll road management company in the Republic of Indonesia. The SPATIOWL probe traffic information service implemented by PT. Marga Utama Nusantara, which can be inexpensively installed on a smartphone, collects probe data such as vehicle location, time and speed, and generates and accumulates traffic information, such as congestion conditions and their duration.
SPATIOWL consists of two different service types: a platform-provisioning service and task-oriented services. The platform-provisioning service uses probe data collected from moving vehicles and vast amounts of location data gathered from various sensors. This diverse assortment of data is analyzed in real-time and delivered through cloud computing as a functional group that is linked with external data. This enables, for example, corporate and other group customers to develop unique services that employ location-based data to create new value, such as those for reporting traffic information in real-time, those that facilitate urban planning, and the delivery of new services to local residents.
The task-oriented services, specialized services that offer data collected by Fujitsu, with analysis, and adaptation for specific purposes will be offered in a menu of immediately available services that include traffic information and routing support services for commercial vehicles. It provides probe data access services that comprise traffic provision and information data service and routing condition analysis service. In addition to urban management services, it also provides telematics services that consist of moving information service, Commercial Vehicle Telematics Service, and voice processing service.
The semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies AG and United Microelectronics Corporation, a leading global semiconductor foundry, have extended their existing manufacturing partnership into power semiconductors for automotive applications. Prior to this expanded partnership, the foundry had been producing Infineon’s logic chips for more than 15 years.
Based on the recently signed agreement, both companies will jointly transfer Infineon’s automotive-qualified Smart Power Technology (SPT9) to UMC and extend its production to 300mm wafers. Production start of SPT9 products at UMC’s 300mm Fab in Taiwan is planned for early 2018.
SPT9 is a proprietary 130-nanometer (nm) process technology of Infineon that combines microcontroller intelligence and power technology on a single die.
In order to satisfy the demands of automotive applications for more functionality and safety as well as compact and cost-optimized solutions, an increasing amount of digital logic is required in power semiconductors.
In 2009, Infineon was the first semiconductor manufacturer to offer an automotive-qualified embedded power technology in 130nm technology node that combines complex digital logic circuits, sensor interfaces and power electronics.
Combining building blocks that are actually manufactured in three different production process technologies enables semiconductor devices that are highly integrated and take over many tasks of other system components. Since fewer components are required in the application, the vulnerability of automotive control systems to faults is reduced.
With SPT9, even semiconductors offering massive functionality are very small in size. SPT9 applications are varied, ranging from intelligent control for small electric motors in vehicles, such as used for power window lifts, wipers, sun roofs, power seats and fan/blower control, oil and water pumps, to airbags, and audio amplifiers.
UMC is a world leading semiconductor foundry, with annual revenues exceeding US$4 billion. In the 2013 global automotive semiconductor market, worth US$25.1 billion, Infineon is ranked number two with a 9.6% market share.