If you’ve been thinking of cutting down your airline travel because online calls are easier, or because you have environmental concerns, sustainable aviation fuel is now coming to the fore.
Sustainable aviation fuel
A group of oneworld® Alliance members plan to purchase up to 200 million gallons of sustainable jet fuel per year from Colorado-based renewable fuels producer Gevo. This is the second such joint commitment by the global airline alliance in the past five months.
Delivery of the fuel is only expected to commence in 2027, for a five year-term. As in the first committed agreement, oneworld members Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways expect to utilise the sustainable jet fuel for operations in California. Cities serviced include San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles International Airports.
Gevo’s sustainable aviation fuel is expected to be produced using inedible corn products. These will be processed to create ethanol for conversion into sustainable aviation fuel. The new fuel is expected to be produced at three facilities under development in the Midwest of the United States. The entire supply chain will be certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) standard, widely recognised as the most robust certification scheme for bioenergy.
In November 2021, nine oneworld members announced a joint commitment to purchase more than 350 million gallons of blended sustainable aviation fuel from Aemetis for operations out of San Francisco. This made oneworld the first global airline alliance to jointly commit to purchasing this sustainable fuel.
Sustainable aviation fuel is a core pillar in oneworld’s plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050. In October 2021, the alliance committed to a target of 10% of such fuel use across the grouping by 2030. oneworld members are partnering to collectively source sustainable jet fuel through the alliance’s Environment and Sustainability Board chaired by IAG Head of Sustainability Jonathon Counsell with representation from all member airlines.
The advantages of changing
- Sustainable aviation fuel produces significantly lower carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel.
- It’s an important part of the aviation sector’s path to decarbonisation, in particular on longer-haul flights.
- No changes to current aircraft or airport infrastructure are required for operators to utilise sustainable aviation fuel
- This makes it a feasible and immediate solution to reduce carbon emissions.
- However, sustainable aviation fuel is not yet available at scale.
- This makes joint commitments like that of oneworld member airlines important.
- Support from other stakeholders is needed
- This includes government regulations and targeted investments.
How is sustainability achieved?
Gevo has developed two alcohol-to-jet pathways that utilise various feedstocks grown using renewable agricultural and sustainable farming techniques. Some of these feedstocks are then converted to high-value nutrition products and energy-dense liquid hydrocarbons, including sustainable jet fuel.
Gevo’s production processes will incorporate renewable energy, including wind turbines, biogas, and combined heat and power systems (CHP) to increase efficiency and reduce carbon intensity to net-zero levels. This will be passed on to the customer through the fuel. This is particularly helpful for customers, such as airlines, seeking to reduce their carbon intensity.