Jumpin’ Jetfuel June – Finnair, Gevo, Qantas, Airbus, Delta, Neste, Southwest, SAFFiRE and more SAF just this month!

June 26, 2022 |

Jump for joy and jetfuel! June was jaw-dropping for SAF and the aviation industry and it’s not just because of Finnair and Gevo’s new 7 million gallons per year of sustainable aviation fuel sales agreement. It’s Qantas and Airbus. It’s ATR and Braathens. It’s Shell, Accenture and American Express. It’s Delta, Neste, Colonial Pipeline and Buckeye Partners. It’s Cepsa and Vueling. It’s Repsol and Iberia. It’s Southwest Airlines and SAFFiRE Renewables.

And that’s just in June and the month isn’t even over yet!

In today’s Digest, how what used to be a year’s worth of SAF news happened in less than a month, the jetfuel joyride that we don’t see going away anytime soon, the newest Finnair and Gevo deal, and more.

Finnair and Gevo

Let’s start with the newest announcement just days ago that Finnair signed a new fuel sales agreement with Colorado-based renewable fuels producer Gevo, Inc. The agreement outlines the details for the purchase of 7 million gallons per year of sustainable aviation fuel for five years starting from 2027. The expected value for the agreement is $192 million over the five-year period, including associated environmental benefits. This agreement is part of oneworld Alliance’s plan to purchase up to 200 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel per year from Gevo.

Finnair uses an extensive toolkit to achieve emission reductions – using sustainable aviation fuels, reducing the weight of aircraft, developing fuel-efficient flight methods, offsetting, and engaging customers in reducing aviation emissions. Finnair is also actively exploring the possibilities of introducing new technologies into its operations.

Gevo’s sustainable aviation fuel is produced using inedible corn products that are processed to create ethanol that is then converted into sustainable aviation fuel. The fuel is used with book and claim principle on Finnair’s flights from Los Angeles.

Finnair has also made a purchase agreement with Aemetis for a total of 17.5 million gallons of blended sustainable aviation fuel to be delivered during 2025-2032. Finnair has earlier partnered with Neste in Finland to increase to use of SAF and hence reduce carbon emissions of flying.

Reactions from the stakeholders

“Finnair has ambitious emissions reduction targets: by the end of 2025, we intend to halve the level of net emissions from 2019 and achieve carbon neutrality latest by the end of 2045. SAF plays an important role for reaching these targets,” says Eveliina Huurre, SVP Sustainability at Finnair.

“Gevo was founded on the principle of building sustainability into every step of our process,” said Dr. Patrick R. Gruber, Gevo’s Chief Executive Officer. “But it is not static—it’s always improving: We’re constantly incorporating new developments at every stage of our business system to reduce our carbon intensity. This is expected to make the renewable energy carried in our advanced renewable fuels even more impactful as they help to lower our customers’ carbon scores.”

Qantas and Airbus

Less than a week ago came news from the land down under that the Australian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Partnership was signed by Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce and Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury in Doha, ahead of the IATA AGM. The landmark agreement will see the Qantas Group and Airbus invest up to $200 million to accelerate the establishment of a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in Australia.

Due to the lack of a local commercial-scale SAF industry, Australia is currently exporting millions of tons of feedstock every year, such as canola and animal tallow to be made into SAF in other countries.

The Qantas Group, which has committed to using 10 per cent SAF in its overall fuel mix by 2030, is sourcing SAF overseas. This includes 15 per cent of its fuel use out of London currently and 20 million liters each year for flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Australia from 2025.

Neste, ATR, Braathens Regional Airlines

Also just days ago was news from Sweden that regional aircraft manufacturer ATR, Swedish airline Braathens Regional Airlines and SAF supplier Neste supplier Neste collaborated to enable the first ever 100% SAF-powered test flight on a commercial regional aircraft. When used in neat form Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions over its life cycle by up to 80% compared to fossil jet fuel use.

This historic test flight took place in Sweden and is part of the 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) certification process of ATR aircraft that started in September 2021 in cooperation with Braathens and Neste and should be completed by 2025. It has been the latest in a series of successful ground and flight tests on the ATR 72-600 prototype aircraft performed at the beginning of 2022, including flights with 100% SAF in one engine, and today it was the first time it was done with 100% SAF in two engines.

SAF Blockchain

We’ve heard a lot about blockchain in the last few years, but also last week was news that Shell, Accenture, and American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) are jointly launching Avelia, one of the world’s first blockchain-powered digital sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) book-and-claim solutions for business travel. It is the largest SAF book-and-claim pilot at launch, offering around 1 million gallons of SAF – enough to power almost 15,000 individual business traveler flights from London-to-New York.

The pilot phase of the program aims to demonstrate the credibility of the book-and-claim model, using blockchain technology to ensure secured allocation of SAF’s environmental attributes to companies and airlines after the fuel has been delivered into the fuel network. With Avelia, airlines and business customers could simultaneously reduce emissions in their respective scopes, while ensuring transparency and accountability by avoiding issues such as double-counting.

SAF delivered using existing petroleum pipelines

Also this month was news that SAF was safely delivered to New York’s LaGuardia Airport through the Colonial and Buckeye pipeline systems – two essential pieces of American energy infrastructure and existing petroleum pipelines. The low-emission jet fuel will power a Delta Air Lines flight, marking a seminal moment in the ongoing development and distribution of SAF in the U.S.

This partnership between Delta, Neste, Colonial Pipeline and Buckeye Partners demonstrates the long-term viability of SAF and the airline industry’s journey towards net zero. Importantly, it shows that SAF can go anywhere there is an existing pipeline currently carrying fossil jet fuel. The milestone delivery and flight is supported by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the first U.S. transportation agency to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement and a champion for accelerating the use of sustainable fuels.

Cepsa and Vueling

Going across the ocean now to Spain’s news also this month, Cepsa and Vueling, an airline that is part of IAG, signed an agreement to accelerate the decarbonization of air transport by researching and producing sustainable aviation fuels as a tool to further reduce the carbon footprint of air transport.

The partnership will also work on the development of new energy alternatives such as renewable hydrogen and the electrification of Vueling’s ground fleets, which include supply vehicles, baggage loading and unloading operations and aircraft assistance.

Repsol and Iberia

Also in June, Repsol and Iberia took another step in their alliance to reduce emissions in the airline industry with the first long-haul flights using biofuel produced in Spain from biological waste. The biojet fuel used is from a batch produced in 2021 at Repsol’s Petronor refinery in Bilbao.

The first flight to use biofuel was the maiden Madrid-Washington DC route with a 288-passenger twin-engine Airbus A330-200. This A330-200 MTOW 242 TN version has a maximum take-off weight of 242 metric tons and uses 15% less fuel than the aircraft it replaces, making it more environmentally friendly.

The second flight to use this type of fuel will be flight IB6193 from Madrid to San Francisco, a route that Iberia resume this week following the pandemic. The third will be Iberia’s maiden flight from Madrid to Dallas, which took off at 3:55p.m. Madrid time on Wednesday. Both used the Airbus A330-200s.

Southwest Airlines and SAFFiRE Renewables

Another big announce this month was Southwest Airlines’ investment into SAFFiRE Renewables, a company formed by D3MAX, as part of a Department of Energy-backed project to develop and produce scalable, SAF. Funded with a DOE grant matched by Southwest’s investment, SAFFiRE is expected to utilize technology developed by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to convert corn stover, a widely available waste feedstock in the U.S., into renewable ethanol that then would be upgraded into SAF.

Bottom Line

All this SAF news was in the past 3 weeks. In the ole’ days, this would have been about a year’s worth of SAF announcements, but not in today’s world. We’ve come a long way from SAF being a rarity and aviation is one of those leaders that other industries can look to and learn from. And this doesn’t even include the other SAF high flying news related to helicopters, like this in Japan with Airbus, Euglena, Gevo, Neste, TotalEnergies and Sikorsky. Or this also in Japan with Nakanihon Air! The skies are indeed looking brighter every day.

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