Air bp low carbon commercial development manager Tom Parsons explains the important role sustainable aviation fuel is playing in reducing aviation’s carbon emissions.

    With the aviation industry setting its sights on net zero carbon emissions by 2050, one of the big issues that industry leaders are grappling with is how to reduce carbon emissions from air transport. Air bp has been working on solutions for many years now.

    There has been increased investment into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) which can have a significant impact in reducing carbon emissions in air transport. Designed as a ‘drop-in’ fuel, it can be blended at up to 50% with traditional jet fuel. This means that any aircraft certified for using the current specification of jet fuel can use SAF, and it is fully compatible with existing airport infrastructure. What’s more, SAF can reduce up to 80% of CO2 emissions over its life cycle compared with traditional jet fuel.

    Since 2010, Air bp’s SAF has been used to fuel many different types of aircraft from small private jets to large passenger aircraft. In 2016, Air bp became the first operator to commercially supply SAF through an existing hydrant fuelling system at Norway’s Oslo Airport. Most recently, Air bp has supplied sustainable aviation fuel for Airbus delivery flights from Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport. In total, Air bp has provided SAF to 16 locations across three continents.

    Further demonstrating its aim to lead the way to a sustainable aviation future, Air bp has collaborated with two companies to increase production of SAF. In 2016, it invested $30 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy which will ultimately supply Air bp with over 50 million US gallons of SAF per year. More recently in 2018, Air bp signed an agreement with Neste to develop the supply and availability of SAF around the globe.

    Driving down costs

    So, why isn’t SAF more widely available? Currently, SAF costs significantly more than traditional jet fuel, which presents a challenge in bringing it to market. The higher cost is due to a number of factors, including the current availability of sustainable feedstocks and the continuing development of new production technologies. However, it is anticipated that the cost may come down as feedstock becomes more available and more efficient production technologies are developed.

    In addition to SAF, the development of more efficient aircraft and engine design, smarter operations that are less carbon intensive and the development of future technologies like electrification all have a role to play in meeting the industry’s carbon reduction targets. We are already seeing aircraft engines that are lighter and more powerful, which means they burn less fuel. The future looks bright for electric flight too. However, we are still some years away from this technology being rolled out at commercial scale. In the meantime, there are other opportunities for companies to act immediately to develop a lower carbon future.

    Air bp is the first aviation fuel supplier to be independently certified carbon neutral for its into-plane fuelling operations globally. Across an international network of 250 Air bp-operated sites, Air bp created a reduction plan to tackle direct and indirect emissions, which includes initiatives such as introducing fuel-efficient and electric vehicles as well as innovative stop-start technology on aviation fuel hydrant dispensers. Any residual carbon emissions, following these reductions, are then offset through bp’s carbon offsetting programme, bp Target Neutral.

    Creating a sustainable aviation industry is of paramount importance and while there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome, it’s clear that Air bp, alongside other stakeholders in the aviation industry, is playing its role in striving to achieve the industry’s low carbon goals.