Pittsburgh International Airport: Leading Aviation Industry with Clean Energy Solutions

Airport provides 3 separate pathways to produce Sustainable Aviation Fuel

By BlueSkyStaff

Published June 2, 2024

Read Time: 3 mins


This week IATA hosts its Annual General Meeting, which convenes world leaders in aviation and provides a forum to discuss the issues facing the industry.  Leading the conversation, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has ambitious plans to provide solutions to one of the industry’s most pressing issues—energy.

As part of its multi-pronged strategy, PIT is charting a course toward a cleaner, greener future, positioning both the airport and the region as world leaders in energy innovation. This strategic shift promises significant environmental benefits, notably the potential to create 150 million gallons of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), positioning Pittsburgh as a hub for economic development within the global aviation industry.

Pathway to a Cleaner Future

“Our energy plan is a pathway to a cleaner, greener future for a hard-to-abate industry that is desperate for solutions,” said Christina Cassotis, CEO of Allegheny County Airport Authority. “We have offered our campus as a research and development and production facility.”

The airport’s comprehensive clean energy strategy aims to attract leaders in global aviation, airlines and related industries, fostering economic growth for the region. Pittsburgh International Airport boasts existing infrastructure and resources, making it an ideal location for this innovative transition.

From Transportation to Energy Hub

Traditionally seen as a transportation-only facility, Pittsburgh International Airport is evolving into an energy and transportation hub, integrating itself into the broader aviation ecosystem. “Pittsburgh can be the place where real energy solutions to world problems are developed,” Cassotis stated.

Three-Pronged Energy Strategy

The airport’s energy strategy is built on a three-pronged approach, encompassing multiple partners and avenues. This strategy has already garnered global credibility for Pittsburgh International Airport.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Production Facility

A cornerstone of the airport’s clean energy strategy is the development of an on-site SAF production facility, exploring three distinct pathways with strategic partners in each of three pathways:

  • Alcohol-to-Jet
    • 75-million-gallon facility (280 million liters)
  • Coal Mine Methane Recapture
    • 75-million-gallon facility (280 million liters)
  • Hydrothermal Liquefaction Process

Producing SAF on-site will help the aviation industry meet decarbonization goals and reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%. The facility could supply SAF to airports across the Northeast and Midwest, making it one of the first airports globally to produce SAF on-site.

Hydrogen Production

The airport is in discussions with a company to produce green hydrogen for aircraft use. Additionally, the coal mine methane and natural gas facility would produce hydrogen to power ground vehicles, facilities, and fuel cells, further reducing the emissions of the airport’s microgrid. Partnering with a hydrogen researcher, the airport aims to develop a technique for producing hydrogen economically at the point of use through small-scale modular production, which could revolutionize the industry and beyond.

Microgrid and Solar Power Expansion

Already Pittsburgh International Airport is the first in the world to be entirely powered by on-site natural gas and solar energy. Taking this achievement further, the airport will soon sign an agreement to more than double its solar array from the current 3 megawatts to an additional 5 megawatts. This expansion, expected to be completed by 2026-2027, pending regulatory approval, will feed extra energy into the general grid, producing clean, green energy for all users.

A Vision for Global Impact

Pittsburgh International Airport’s ambitious plans aim to mirror the region’s historical contributions to innovation, manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare. “We’re standing on the shoulders of the people who came before us,” Cassotis said. “We’re putting the assets of this community to work in a way that people hadn’t quite anticipated, and certainly never expected that an airport would do.”

The transformation promises more jobs and economic development, creating opportunities for the community to be part of the future of aviation and a greener economy. “We’re changing the industry. We’re helping build a cleaner, greener future. And at the same time, we are creating economic development for this region for people to be part of the future of aviation and a greener, cleaner economy. We are redefining what it means to be an airport,” Cassotis concluded.

Read more in the Pittsburgh Business Times.

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