At least nine of the 14 members of the oneworld airline alliance will between them purchase 350 million gallons (1.3 billion litres) of blended sustainable aviation fuel from California-based renewable fuels company Aemetis for flights from San Francisco International Airport over a seven-year period, commencing in 2024, reports Tony Harrington. Initially, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Qantas and Qatar Airways will look to using the fuel, a blend of 40% sustainable product and 60% petroleum jet fuel, with other oneworld carriers potentially joining the programme in coming months. American Airlines, with the largest share, has signed an offtake for 280 million gallons of blended fuel (120 million gallons of SAF) with Aemetis. In a separate initiative by a oneworld member, Malaysia Airlines has partnered with Petronas, the Malaysian government-owned oil and gas company, to introduce SAF by 2025 and to explore new technologies to further reduce its carbon emissions.
The oneworld partnership with Aemetis followed a joint request to fuel suppliers for the purchase of sustainable aviation fuel. Waste wood from orchards and forests will be used to produce cellulosic hydrogen, which will then be combined with waste and non-edible sustainable oils, and zero carbon intensity hydroelectric power, to make sustainable aviation fuel at the Aemetis Carbon Zero plant, which is currently being developed in Riverview, near California’s capital, Sacramento. The process technology is licensed from Axens in France, a global technology provider to the oil and chemical industries.
The renewable jet/diesel plant is on the site of a 125-acre former US Army Ammunition production plant. To further reduce carbon intensity, the Carbon Zero production process includes injecting CO2 from the production plant into a sequestration well at the plant site to permanently capture an estimated 200,000 tonnes per year of CO2.
The Chairman of oneworld, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said: “Our alliance is standing together with the industry in supporting the transition to net zero. As sustainable aviation fuel will play an important role in meeting aviation’s decarbonisation targets, we are proud to establish another milestone and drive the SAF use at commercial scale.” The alliance’s Chief Executive, Rob Gurney, added the Aemetis deal “continues to demonstrate what we can achieve together as an alliance and underlines the importance of collaboration in the important work to advance environmental sustainability. This latest milestone signals our commitment in driving forward momentum for the development of sustainable aviation fuel.”
The American Airlines purchase has an aggregated value of more than $1.1 billion, including LCFS, RFS, 45Q and tax credits. American has agreed to take delivery of 16 million gallons of Aemetis SAF annually over a seven-year period from 2024, with the blended fuel delivered to SFO.
“We’re proud to join with our oneworld partners in supporting the growth of SAF through this agreement with Aemetis, and we’re eager to continue collaborating with like-minded partners to meet aviation’s climate challenge,” said the airline’s CEO, Doug Parker.
As well as producing SAF, said Eric McAfee, the founder and CEO of Aemetis, the company’s new plant is designed to deliver direct social benefits, cutting air pollution in disadvantaged local communities by reducing orchard wood burning in fields, and creating more than 2,000 direct and indirect jobs in a lower-income agricultural area.
On the opposite side of the Pacific, oneworld member Malaysia Airlines Group (MAG) has signed Memoranda of Understanding with Petronas Dagangan Berhad (PDB) and Petronas Research Sdn Bhd (PRSB) to help decarbonise air transport through the use of low carbon and sustainable fuels, innovation and technologies for carbon reduction, carbon offset and waste management, research and development for low carbon applications, and a combined advocacy campaign. As well, the companies will explore carbon capture technologies and potential uses for robotics, remotely operated infrastructure, machine learning and augmented reality in their collaboration to help decarbonise air transport. The company’s five airline divisions, led by Malaysia Airlines, operate more than 100 aircraft, ranging from regional DHC-6 Twin Otters to long haul Airbus A350s.
“MAG is committed and will continue to play an active role towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said the Group’s CEO, Captain Izham Ismail. “We believe SAF is one of the most significant components for aviation and we are proud to announce this landmark collaboration with one of our top suppliers, underlining Petronas’ support towards this goal. We also look forward to the support from all stakeholders including key suppliers across the ecosystem, the government and customers.”
The California and Malaysia deals closely follow the collective decision of oneworld’s members that by 2030, SAF will comprise 10% of the fuel they use to power their flights. The initiatives also coincided with an agreement by British Airways to introduce, potentially within months, SAF produced in the UK by oil refiner Phillips 66 (see article), and an announcement by Qantas that it was finalising its first major order for SAF, and discussing with manufacturers Airbus, Boeing and Embraer ways to expedite the development of SAF-compatible aircraft, ahead of an order for 100-plus narrowbody jets.
Photo: Qatar Airways