The National Academies

ACRP 02-100 [Active]

Carbon Removal and Reduction to Support Airport Net-Zero Goals

  Project Data
Funds: $600,000
Staff Responsibility: Marci A. Greenberger
Research Agency: Mead & Hunt
Principal Investigator: Kate Andrus
Effective Date: 3/16/2022
Completion Date: 11/15/2023

In alignment with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C target, the members of the Airports Council International (ACI) have committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (see ACI Long Term Carbon Goal Study for Airports Report, 2021, as referenced in Special Note C). The term net zero, as applied by ACI, means that any airport-controlled carbon emissions are balanced by an equivalent amount being removed without the use of offsets. While carbon offsets prevent greenhouse gas emissions from occurring, carbon removals directly remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
ACRP Research Report 220: Guidebook for Developing a Zero- or Low- Emissions Roadmap at Airports provides the information and resources needed for airports to create a zero- or low-emissions roadmap and addresses making the business case for working with stakeholders to set zero- or low-emissions goals and targets. In addition, ACRP Synthesis 100: Airport Greenhouse Gas Reduction Efforts assesses the state of the practice and lessons learned in approaches to greenhouse gas reduction. These efforts may also offer opportunities for revenue generation, as initially explored in ACRP Report 57: The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports, which was published in 2011.
While the above reports have identified numerous carbon reduction strategies, carbon removal approaches and net-zero emission targets have not been widely studied nor adopted at airports.
The objective of this research is to develop a playbook to help airports understand and define how they can reach the net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050 or earlier. This research will provide foundational knowledge for airports to better understand carbon removal strategies (technology and nature-based) and their potential feasibility in an airport setting.
The playbook will assist airports in selecting and customizing net-zero carbon strategies, based on their type, size, and geographic region. It will include a framework for decision-making and implementation, and will help airports evaluate the trade-offs and synergies among various carbon reduction and emerging removal strategies.
Specifically, the playbook will include, but not be limited to, the following elements and considerations:
  • Identification of funding opportunities for carbon removal strategies;
  • Identification and estimation of new revenue opportunities referenced in ACRP Report 57;
  • A summary of current and future utility energy supply mixes in different regions including the regulatory context for airports to procure their own clean energy from the gas and/or electricity grid;
  • Combination or sequencing of strategies and technologies for the near-term and long-term approaches;
  • Applicable strategies for retrofit versus new-build facilities (e.g., terminals, support buildings);
  • Recommendations for how recent carbon-related commitments by airlines and other key stakeholders could be leveraged by airports;
  • A library of tools (e.g., templates, flowcharts, calculators) to help airports evaluate and select strategies that meet their unique needs;
  • References to and incorporation of relevant existing databases and case studies;
  • A focus on the airport’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and potential connectivity to Scope 3 (e.g., electrification of ground support equipment), (See Special Note B);    
  • A risk reduction plan to remain on target when encountering setbacks, (e.g., pandemic, natural disasters, terrorism, grid-disruptions); and
  • A description of how on-site utilities or carbon removal technologies could support levels beyond net-zero targets/goals. 
The ACRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are asked to provide a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail.
The research plan should include deliverables for ACRP and project panel review and approval, and include at a minimum:   
  1. A data collection plan specific to carbon removal strategies;
  2. A description and mock-up of proposed tools and how they will support airport decision-making;
  3. A validation plan for testing the tools with airports of different types, sizes, and geographic regions; and
  4. An interim report that discusses and analyzes the work done to date, provides an annotated outline of the playbook, and gives feedback on the testing of the tools.
The research plan should also include checkpoints with the ACRP panel, including at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed and (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting, as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to the panel review and ACRP approval of other interim deliverables deemed appropriate.
The final deliverables will include: (1) a playbook and stand-alone implementation tools as described in the objective; (2) a contractor's final report that documents the entire research effort; and (3) (a) a Summary of Key Findings; (b) a Further Recommended Research Memo; and (c) a technical memo titled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.
STATUS: A contractor has been selected: Mead & Hunt will be performing this research. 

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