Saudi Aramco and Italy’s ENI have joined the world’s largest passenger carrier United Airlines (UA) to invest in British start-up OXCCU’s efforts to slash the high cost of lower-carbon aviation fuel, the companies stated earlier this week. Aviation produces 2 per cent of the world’s planet-warming emissions and the sector’s own targets to emit no more than can be absorbed by natural sinks like forests or other technologies by 2050 pose a particularly daunting challenge. The US$22.7 million investment, led by US-based investor Clean Energy Ventures, will go to Oxford University-affiliated scientists at OXCCU, one of several firms searching for ways to replace kerosene and gasoline in plane engines. The move stands to benefit air cargo as well. OXCCU says it can make fuel by combining carbon dioxide captured from industry or power plants with hydrogen made using renewably sourced electricity. Its breakthrough is in using an iron-based catalyst to do this in one step, replacing the pricier two-stage process that is usually needed to bring about the chemical reaction.
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