14 June 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Atlas Air signs 5% SAF deal with Repsol for flights on behalf of Spanish fashion company Inditex

Global freight airline Atlas Air has commenced using a 5% blend of sustainable aviation fuel on flights from Zaragoza Airport in north-east Spain, more than double the 2% volume mandated from 2025 under Europe’s ReFuelEU Aviation regulation. The SAF is provided by Spanish refiner Repsol for Atlas Air flights operated on behalf of the global fashion company Inditex, which owns apparel brands including Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear and Bershka. Repsol already supplies SAF to airlines including IAG’s Spanish-based carriers Iberia and Vueling, and the European low-cost operator Ryanair, but New York-based Atlas Air is the first all-freight operator to use SAF regularly on flights in Spain. The Repsol deal to fuel the Atlas-Inditex flights also progresses the efforts of the airline’s parent, Atlas Air Worldwide, to achieve a targeted 20% reduction in its Scope 1 carbon emissions by 2035.

In addition to its current SAF production, Repsol is preparing to deliver significantly more from a new biofuels plant in Cartagena, Spain’s first renewable fuels facility. It will have capacity to produce 250,000 tons of SAF and renewable diesel per year, largely from feedstocks including used cooking oil and waste from the agri-food sector, which the company estimates will be able to avert 900,000 tons of CO2 per year. Repsol plans to open a second renewable fuels plant in Puertollano in 2025, producing a further 240,000 tons of renewable fuels per year.

Oliver Fernández, Director of International Aviation for Repsol, said the Atlas Air deal further advanced decarbonisation of the air transport sector. “SAF is the future, but also the present,” he said. “With the upcoming launch of our new advanced biofuels plant in Cartagena we are ready to supply the sector with the SAF it needs to realise its decarbonisation ambitions.”

By 2025, says Repsol, around 120,000 tons of SAF will be needed in Spain to meet the 2% fuel blending obligation of the ReFuelEU Aviation ambition. By then, the company says, it is targeting total renewable fuel production capacity of 1.3 million tons, further increasing to 2 million tons in 2030 when the SAF blending mandate will rise to 6%, before steeply increasing to 70% by 2050, the aviation sector’s deadline to achieve net zero carbon emissions from flights.

Atlas Air and sibling companies Polar Air Cargo and Titan operate more than 100 Boeing 737, 767, 777 and 747 aircraft for freight and passenger charter services, performing some 61,000 flights per year. The group is the largest operator of Boeing 747s with 57 in service, including new, fuel-efficient B747-8 freighters, among them the last jumbo ever manufactured by Boeing. Compared to earlier models, the new 747s offer 20% more payload capacity while reducing fuel consumption by 16%. The company has also ordered four new B777-200LRF aircraft.

“We are committed to contributing to the sustainability of the aviation sector and appreciate this opportunity to work with our valued partners at Inditex and Repsol,” said Michael Steen, CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide. “It is critical for our sector to work together in driving wider adoption and availability of SAF, which ultimately will have a positive impact on our industry and the environment.”

The agreement between Atlas Air, Inditex, and Repsol is also designed to enhance production of SAF in Spain, including refinery capacity and sourcing raw materials locally, to help reduce aviation emissions.

The freight airline is additionally exploring opportunities to procure SAF elsewhere in its network, which spans 265 destinations in 60 countries.

“SAF is a significant component of our strategy to meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal and the industry’s 2050 target for net zero carbon emissions,” the company explained in its latest sustainability report.

“We are actively involved in advancing SAF adoption in the aviation industry to increase access and moderate costs. Significant changes in government policy, infrastructure, and funding, as well as multi-sector cooperation, will be necessary for SAF to have a significant impact on the air cargo industry’s fuel sourcing practices.”

In addition to IATA and ICAO, Atlas also partners with the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) and the Kentucky Sustainable Fuel Coalition (KSFC) in the US to help progress access to affordable SAF.

Atlas Air is also a participant in SAF book-and-claim programmes on behalf of its customers.

“Since SAF is currently produced in limited locations, the book-and-claim model allows us to work with our customers to utilise SAF, while reducing SAF-related logistics costs and lowering our own emissions by purchasing SAF from alternate locations,” the company said. “We continue to focus on enhancing our fuel software and SAF procurement processes so our customers all over the world have SAF purchasing options available to them.”

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