What emissions come from aviation?




What emissions come from aviation?


Aircraft produce the same types of emissions as your automobile. Aircraft jet engines, like many other vehicle engines, produce carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor (H2O), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of sulfur (SOx), unburned or partially combusted hydrocarbons (also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs)), particulates, and other trace compounds.

A small subset of the VOCs and particulates are considered hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). Aircraft engine emissions are roughly composed of about 70 percent CO2, a little less than 30 percent H2O, and less than 1 percent each of NOx, CO, SOx, VOC, particulates, and other trace components including HAPs. Aircraft emissions, depending on whether they occur near the ground or at altitude, are primarily considered local air quality pollutants or greenhouse gases, respectively.

Water in the aircraft exhaust at altitude may have a greenhouse effect, and occasionally this water produces contrails, which also may have a greenhouse effect. About 10 percent of aircraft emissions of all types, except hydrocarbons and CO, are produced during airport ground level operations and during landing and takeoff. The bulk of aircraft emissions (90 percent) occur at higher altitudes.

For hydrocarbons and CO, the split is closer to 30 percent ground level emissions and 70 percent at higher altitudes. Aircraft are not the only source of aviation emissions. Airport access and ground support vehicles produce similar emissions. Such vehicles include traffic to and from the airport, ground equipment that services aircraft, and shuttle buses and vans serving passengers. Other emissions sources at the airport include auxiliary power units providing electricity and air conditioning to aircraft parked at airport terminal gates, stationary airport power sources, and construction equipment operating on the airport.


Emissions from Combustion Processes CO2 – Carbon dioxide is the product of complete combustion of hydrocarbon fuels like gasoline, jet
fuel, and diesel. Carbon in fuel combines with oxygen in the air to produce CO2 . H2O – Water vapor is the other product of complete combustion as hydrogen in the fuel combines with oxygen in the air to produce H2O. NOx – Nitrogen oxides are produced when air passes through high temperature/high pressure combustion and nitrogen and oxygen present in the air combine to form NOx.

HC – Hydrocarbons are emitted due to incomplete fuel combustion. They are also referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Many VOCs are also hazardous air pollutants. CO – Carbon monoxide is formed due to the incomplete combustion of the carbon in the fuel. SOx – Sulfur oxides are produced when small quantities of sulfur, present in essentially all hydrocarbon fuels, combine with oxygen from the air during combustion.

Particulates – Small particles that form as a result of incomplete combustion, and are small enough to be inhaled, are referred to as particulates. Particulates can be solid or liquid. Ozone – O3 is not emitted directly into the air but is formed by the reaction of VOCs and NOx in the presence of heat and sunlight. Ozone forms readily in the atmosphere and is the primary constituent of smog. For this reason it is an important consideration in the environmental impact of aviation.

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