Amidst a forecast that contracted volumes of sustainable aviation fuel under offtake agreements could double this year, four significant SAF initiatives have been announced in the first weeks of 2023. Japan’s two biggest airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, have signed identical memorandums of agreement with industrial group ITOCHU Corporation and Raven SR, a US-based renewable fuels company, for 10-year deals to buy SAF produced from solid waste. Meanwhile in Europe, Lufthansa Group subsidiary Brussels Airlines has purchased 2 million litres of blended product from SAF producer Neste, the first supplies of which have been pumped direct to Brussels Airport via NATO’s pipeline system. Another Lufthansa company, the logistics group time:matters, has also announced that from this month it will purchase SAF for all of its Sameday Air and On Board Courier services, which distribute time-sensitive shipments ranging from industrial supplies to medical consignments.
The SAF for the two Japanese airlines initially will be produced by Raven in California from 2025, through the non-combustible conversion of waste to synthetic fuel. The process will use a patented ‘Steam-CO2 reforming technology’ to convert feedstocks including green and organic waste, municipal solid waste and methane from the latter.
In parallel announcements, Raven said each of the airline agreements provided for an initial 50,000 tons of SAF supply in 2025, with annual incremental rises ratchetting to 200,000 tons in 2034. Future production would be expanded to additional international locations served by both airlines outside Japan.
“By utilising local and regional waste, Raven SR’s distributive model produces fuels closer to market demand, leading to greater decarbonisation and addressing environmental issues caused by waste in specific regions,” said the company, which is also a member of the advisory board of the 4Aircraft European Programme, an international partnership exploring the conversion of recycled CO2 to SAF.
Tokyo-based ITOCHU, which is focused on sustainable technologies and industries, invested in Raven in August 2021 to jointly produce and sell renewable fuels worldwide, and introduced the company to both airlines. “ITOCHU will continue to contribute to the realisation of a recycling-oriented society,” the company said, “as well as the United Nations sustainable development goals through the stable supply of SAF to leading airlines in Japan.”
Japan Airlines said the agreement with ITOCHU and Raven, together with existing offtake agreements with US SAF producers Aemetis and Gevo, would enable it to replace 1% of its fuel by the 2025 financial year, and 10% by 2030. “In the current situation where SAF supply is limited, JAL will contribute to the popularisation and market expansion of SAF and promote carbon neutrality in aviation by demonstrating the need for SAF produced from a variety of feedstocks, including used cooking oil, tallow and biomass, as well as waste products.”
For All Nippon Airways, the new partnership adds to a 2020 agreement with ITOCHU to procure Neste SAF produced from waste fats and oils. “As part of our climate transition strategies, ANA is dedicated to being an industry leader with our environmental commitments,” said Hideo Miyake, the airline’s Executive VP responsible for procurement.”
In Belgium, Brussels Airlines, a member of the Lufthansa Group, announced the purchase of 2 million litres of fuel – 2,000 barrels, each of 1,000 litres – containing a 38% blend of Neste SAF. The first supplies were pumped direct to Brussels Airport on New Year’s Day from the fuel producer’s blending facility in Ghent, the first time SAF has been transferred to the airport using NATO’s Central Europe Pipeline System (CEPS). The total volume of fuel acquired in this transaction is equivalent to the maximum fuel capacity of 73 Airbus A320ceo jets, of which Brussels Airlines has 17. The first batch of SAF was used to fuel “a symbolic first flight” from Brussels to Malaga.
“To achieve our climate goals, we will have to drastically increase the use of alternatives to fossil fuels in the coming years,” said Brussels Airlines CEO Peter Gerber. “Next to fleet renewal, sustainable aviation fuel is the most effective tool currently available to reduce emissions from air travel. The fact that we can now transport the sustainable aviation fuel from the blending facility all the way to our aircraft at Brussels Airport in a fast and environmentally-friendly way is an important step to increase the use of this type of fuel in the near future.”
Brussels Airport is targeting 5% SAF in its kerosene imports by 2026, four years ahead of the same target by the EU. Within Project Stargate, a sustainable aviation initiative led by the airport, and engaging 22 stakeholders, a large-scale SAF blending plant was being explored, but is no longer necessary now that supplies can be pumped directly via the NATO pipeline. “This is an important milestone in making aviation more sustainable at Brussels Airport,” said its CEO, Arnaud Feist. “Having sustainable aviation fuel available at the airport has been a priority for us and we are pleased that, thanks to NATO’s support, this has now been realised.”
Neste welcomed this first use of the CEPS pipeline, Europe’s largest, to supply SAF to Brussels Airport and now expects increased use of the pipeline to supply other airports.
Also in Europe, Lufthansa Cargo subsidiary time:matters has committed to using SAF for all of its Sameday Air and On Board Courier services. In the past year, the global logistics business has offset 97% of its transport emissions, with the remaining 3% reduced through the use of SAF. By 2025, the company wants to reduce its own emissions by up to 50%, mainly by using SAF. The Sameday Air network covers 200 international destinations, and is supported by 21 participating airlines.
“There’s no alternative to sustainable logistics solutions,” said the company’s CEO, Alexander Kohnen. “As a logistics company, we’re contributing to climate change. At the same time, we consider the provision of time-critical transports a matter of life and death in some circumstances. Our focus is on three core activities. We will avoid potential emissions wherever possible, reduce current emission levels and offset unavoidable emissions. At the same time, we’re inviting our customers to act sustainably.”
In its recent 2023 Outlook, international aircraft leasing company Avolon predicted the volume of SAF under offtake agreements by airlines will double from 40 billion litres of SAF to 80 billion this year.