The first ever consignment of CORSIA-certified sustainable aviation fuel has been delivered to American Airlines at San Francisco International Airport. The world’s largest airline received the fuel from Neste as part of a pilot programme to certify SAF that airlines can use to meet their emissions obligations under ICAO’s carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation. The unspecified volume of SAF was delivered to American as the airline released its 2021 ESG Report, in which it reveals it used 1.4 million gallons of sustainable fuel last year, 0.05% of total fuel consumption. American has a goal of replacing 10% of jet fuel with SAF by 2030. In his introduction to the report, CEO Robert Isom said it was essential for long-term success of the airline to prepare for a carbon-constrained future by running a more fuel-efficient fleet powered by low-carbon fuel. In April, it received validation from the Science Based Targets Initiative for its interim 2035 GHG reduction target, the first airline to achieve this, reports Tony Harrington.
Under CORSIA, an airline can claim reduced GHG emissions against their offsetting obligations from the use of eligible fuels. Because CORSIA’s SAF certification process is new, American and Neste initiated a pilot project to certify a batch of the fuel to identify any challenges. In doing so, they became the first to receive CORSIA-certified SAF, which requires independent attestation by an ICAO-approved Sustainability Certification Scheme. Neste chose the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), a global system which verifies sustainable feedstocks.
“Sustainable fuel is widely acknowledged as a key element in achieving the aviation industry’s goals for carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050,” said Thorsten Lange, Neste’s EVP, Renewable Aviation. “The pilot with American Airlines was a perfect opportunity for proving the feasibility of delivering CORSIA-certified SAF and gaining useful insights into setting up the process and the challenges we need to overcome to enable the implementation of CORSIA. Cooperation with American, ISCC and all others involved was absolutely critical in achieving this important milestone. We will be sharing our experiences in ICAO’s upcoming environmental report.”
American’s Head of ESG, Jill Blickstein, said: “American is proud to partner with Neste to demonstrate how SAF can meet the robust sustainability standards that ICAO has established for CORSIA. Our work together will also help to demonstrate to American’s customers that SAF can meet these high standards.”
The airline’s latest ESG Report focuses heavily on the importance of SAF as a decarbonisation tool and details the airline’s use and ongoing commitment to using the fuel, including a SAF offtake agreement late last year to source from US renewable fuels company Aemetis 16 million gallons of SAF per year, for seven years, commencing in 2024 – a total of 112 million gallons, which brings total purchase commitments to date to over 120 million gallons.
Isom says American was the only US airline to report using more than 1 million gallons of SAF in 2021.
On climate change, American said its strategy was to “anticipate, mitigate and respond to climate-related risks and to thrive in an uncertain future. The clearest near-term way for us to decarbonise is by using SAF, which is why purchasing and helping scale SAF production is the cornerstone of our climate strategy this decade. SAF will also be the key to achieving the in-sector reductions required to meet our science-based target for 2035.
“American’s science-based target is to reduce carbon intensity – which means greenhouse gas emissions per unit of passenger and cargo payload that the airline transports – by 45% by 2035, compared to a 2019 baseline. In setting this goal, we are committing to reduce the intensity associated with the entire life cycle emissions of jet fuel.
“This includes both direct emissions (Scope 1) – which are primarily from the jet fuel used in flight – and the emissions from the production of the jet fuel the airline uses (Scope 3). In April 2022, we received validation from the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) that our intermediate 2035 GHG reduction target complies with the SBTi criteria. That makes us the first airline globally to achieve this milestone.”
To help manage its Scope 3 emissions, American has approached its key fuel suppliers to better understand the emissions created in production and distribution of jet fuel. “About 76% of American’s Scope 3 emissions are from jet fuel, including the fuel used by our contracted regional carriers and the upstream emissions from our fuel suppliers,” says the report. “These upstream ‘well-to-pump’ emissions – including extraction, crude transport, refining and product transport – constitute approximately 20% of petroleum jet fuel life cycle emissions. To move the needle on our Scope 3 emissions, we know we must work with our fuel suppliers to better understand the steps they are taking to reduce emissions within their operations.”
Image: American Airlines