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Australian researchers testing SAF production from landfill gases

Australian researchers have developed a chemical process that could produce sustainable aviation fuel from landfill gases as a way of cutting carbon emissions.

The global aviation industry seeks more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to meet a net-zero target on carbon emissions by 2050, but airlines lament lack of supply and a price that is three to five times more expensive than traditional jet fuel.

The Sydney University scientists used non-thermal plasma technology that fires high-energy electrons in normal atmospheric conditions into methane and carbon dioxide emitted from landfills, causing carbon and hydrogen to bond.

That process leads to production of sustainable aviation fuel, holding out hope for a net-zero aviation industry.

"It redefines what we think of in terms of chemistry...I think the impact is very significant," P.J. Cullen, of the university's school of chemical and biomolecular engineering, told Reuters.

"In one sense, we have this idea that we're going to be capturing emissions that are coming from landfill. On the other, we have a sector that really needs a new technology in order to become more sustainable."

All waste produced in Australia could be converted into energy, said Richard Kirkman, the Australia and New Zealand chief executive of waste management company Veolia.

"That can supplement about 10% of Australia's energy supply," Kirkman told Reuters.

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