California continues to solidify its status as one of the world’s fastest-growing hubs of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as the industry continues to take steps towards decarbonisation.
Neste has delivered over 500,000 gallons (1,500 metric tonnes) of Neste Sustainable Aviation Fuel to Los Angeles International Airport this week, made possible by a close co-operation with LAXFUEL, the consortium of the airlines operating at LAX providing the jet fuel supply infrastructure for aircraft at the airport. It is the first time SAF is delivered into LAXFUEL’s supply infrastructure using barges for transport.
The fuel delivery significantly increases the availability and accessibility of sustainable aviation fuel at one of the busiest international airports and aviation hubs in the US, offering airlines and passengers a solution to travel more sustainably with reduced greenhouse gas emissions from air travel.
This partnership marks the first time that SAF is being delivered as a ready-made fuel blend into the existing fuelling infrastructure in large volumes at LAX.
John Trozzo, chairman of LAXFUEL Corporation, said: “Sustainable aviation fuel is the fastest, most effective means we have to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from air travel. “We now have the means to supply this low-emission fuel in larger volumes not only to the airlines flying from LAX but also to other airports in the region serviced by the broader fuel infrastructure managed by LAXFUEL in California.
“This partnership with Neste proves that we have the capability to immediately implement this fuel as a low-carbon solution. It also provides a sound basis for scaling up future deliveries to airlines.”
Chris Cooper, president of Neste US, said: “Neste is fully committed to supporting the decarbonisation of aviation. Our company has been at the forefront of accelerating the availability of SAF, and this achievement together with LAXFUEL shows how we are taking concrete steps towards a more sustainable future for aviation. Recognised as one of the most visited states in the US, California has a huge demand for air travel. By offering SAF to the state’s busiest airport, we are enabling passengers who travel to and from California to lower their carbon footprint while enjoying the benefits of flying.”
SAF is considered the most important way to decarbonise airline operations in the next few decades, before alternatively powered aircraft can be widely deployed in commercial operations.
Here in Doha, Qatar Airways and sustainable aviation fuel producer Gevo Inc have already signed an offtake agreement, where the airline will purchase 25mn US gallons of neat SAF over the course of five years with deliveries expected to commence in 2028 at various airports in California. Qatar Airways will be uplifting 5mn US gallons of neat SAF every year and will blend it with its existing supply of conventional jet fuel.
The airline became the first airline in the Middle East and Africa region to announce its commitment to an international SAF offtake agreement. This partnership is part of the airline’s earlier commitment, along with other oneworld Alliance members to purchase up to 200mn US gallons of SAF from Gevo.
Decarbonising aviation requires a gradual incorporation of lower carbon and sustainable aviation fuels, and we are proud to collaborate on this global effort for a better future.
Compared to conventional jet fuel, SAF can reduce up to 100% carbon emissions on a lifecycle basis, depending on the SAF technology used. Aircraft today are powered by liquid aviation fuel, made mostly from fossil fuel sources. Yet new fuels have been developed that have the potential to dramatically reduce aviation’s net CO2 emissions. Although supply is currently limited (0.01% of global jet fuel use), sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are already in use today and take-up is increasing.
Aviation currently accounts for approximately 2-3% of manmade global carbon emissions, but without action, aviation could consume up to 22% of the global carbon budget by 2050. To maintain growth and at the same time address its environmental impact, the wider aviation industry has committed to reducing net aviation carbon emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2050. Since the first commercial flight operated by KLM in 2011, more than 150,000 flights were powered by SAF.
The type of fuel known as ‘sustainable’ is essentially clean substitute for fossil jet fuels. Rather than being refined from petroleum, SAF is produced from sustainable resources such as waste oils from a biological origin, or non-fossil CO2. It is a so-called drop-in fuel, which means that it can be blended with fossil jet fuel and that the blended fuel requires no special infrastructure or equipment changes. It has the same characteristics and meets the same specifications as fossil jet fuel. Aircraft do not require modifications to be able to fly with SAF, and it’s a sustainable solution available to us today.
More than 99% of airline emissions and approximately 50% of airport emissions are related to the combustion of jet fuel. Although increased energy efficiency and reduction in energy demand are effective ways to reduce fuel consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions, these improvements do not offer a sole solution to aviation-related emissions.
The aviation industry maintains a clear vision for its use of SAFs and will adopt only fuels made from feedstocks that can be grown or produced without the risk of unintended environmental and social consequences, such as competition with food production or deforestation.
Several airlines are driving forward the use of SAFs by signing multi-million dollar forward purchasing agreements. Others have invested in start-up support for SAF deployment, and some have promoted SAFs through test flights, research, and investigation of local opportunities. Five airports also have a regular SAF supply: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oslo, Bergen, and Stockholm.
However, scaling up the use of SAFs to a global market is challenging and requires substantial investment. The industry has called on governments to assist potential SAF suppliers to develop the necessary feedstock and refining systems – at least until the fledgling industry has achieved the necessary critical mass and prices drop thanks to economies of scale.
More than 45 airlines now have experience with SAF, and around 14bn litres of SAF are in forward purchase agreements.
* The author is an aviation analyst. Twitter handle: @AlexInAir
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