Boeing released a free public version of its Cascade climate impact modeling tool on Wednesday. It allows users to explore strategies for making aviation more sustainable and quantify how different technologies might reduce, or even increase, the industry's carbon footprint.
”Cascade helps airline operators, industry partners, and policymakers see when, where, and how different fuel sources affect their sustainability goals,” said Neil Titchener, who leads the Cascade program at Boeing. “Our industry has really hard questions ahead of us, [and] we're going to have to make difficult choices. Cascade can be the conversation starter for how each decarbonization pathway can help us reach a more sustainable future.”
In the Cascade web app, users can manipulate sliding scales to explore the impact of "green" technologies, including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and next-generation aircraft, such as those powered by hydrogen and electric batteries.
Interestingly, because the tool accounts for the full life cycle of alternative fuel sources, it shows that simply increasing the use of these technologies does not necessarily always translate to reduced emissions. For alternative fuel sources to effectively decarbonize aviation, methods used to produce those fuels will need to use clean, renewable energy sources.
If, for example, you were to replace half of all single-aisle airplanes with hydrogen-powered ones, Cascade shows that this could actually increase emissions. “While there will be zero CO2 out of the tailpipe of a hydrogen airplane, it all depends on where and how that hydrogen was produced,” Titchener said Wednesday during a live demonstration of Cascade at the "Sustainable Aviation Together Forum" near Seattle.
“The idea was really to bring together energy data and aviation data, and the fact that our flights are tracked means we could model the commercial aviation system,” said Boeing chief sustainability officer Chris Raymond. “Cascade sought to bring those two things together in a visual way with real energy and aviation information and then just allow the exploration of scenarios,” such as the rate of fleet renewal and the availability of SAF.
Cascade uses a combination of several different models, including Boeing’s own internal models as well as other models from the energy and aviation industries, “so that we can have a data-driven, collaborative discussion about how we get to net-zero [carbon emissions by 2050],” Titchener said.
Boeing said it has no plans to monetize the tool but will make updates and improvements to Cascade in the future as new data and models become available.