Sustainable Aviation Fuel: 11 facts about green fuel for business jets

CJI Contributor
By CJI Contributor February 12, 2020 12:27

Sustainable Aviation Fuel: 11 facts about green fuel for business jets

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is set to play a key role in meeting the aviation industry’s carbon-reduction targets. In the first of new occasional series on SAF, Tom Parsons, Air BP’s low carbon commercial development manager, answers 11 questions about the topic.

Question: The use of SAF is on the rise, but what is it exactly?

Tom Parsons: SAF is produced from sustainable, renewable feedstocks and is very similar in its chemistry to fossil jet fuel. Air BP’s SAF is currently made from used cooking oil and other waste.

Q: Why is SAF important?

A:.  Jet fuel packs a lot of energy for its weight, and it is this energy density that has really enabled commercial flight. There aren’t any other viable options today for transporting groups of people quickly over very long distances, so we’re dependent on this type of fuel in aviation. With the aviation industry expected to double to 8.2bn passengers by 2037, it is essential that we take action to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and SAF is one way in which we as an industry are doing that.

Q: How much carbon (CO2) does SAF save?

A: SAF gives an impressive reduction of up to 80% in CO2 emissions over the lifecycle of the fuel compared with fossil jet fuel, depending on the sustainable feedstock used, production method and the supply chain to the airport.

Q: When did Air BP first test SAF?

A: In 2010 Air BP teamed up with Brazilian airline TAM (now LATAM) for a test flight.

Q: Who does Air BP partner with to make SAF available?

A: In 2018 we signed an agreement with Neste, which produces sustainable available fuel made from non-palm oil based used cooking oil and other wastes and residues. Through this collaboration we are developing new SAF supply chains.

In 2016 Air BP created a strategic partnership with Fulcrum BioEnergy with an initial investment of $30m. Fulcrum is building its first plant in Reno, Nevada which will produce sustainable transport fuel made from household waste. Fulcrum ultimately plans to supply us with over 50m US gallons of SAF per year.

Q: Is it safe to use?

A: Yes. SAF can be blended at up to 50% with fossil jet fuel and all quality tests are completed as per regular jet fuel. Once blended, SAF has the same characteristics as fossil jet fuel. It can be handled in exactly the same way as a regular jet fuel s no changes are required in the fueling infrastructure or for an aircraft wanting to use SAF.

Q: Is SAF suitable for all aircraft?

A: Any aircraft certified for using the current specification of jet fuel can use SAF. Air BP’s SAF has been used to fuel many different types of aircraft from small private jets to large passenger aircraft.

Q: Who has Air BP supplied?

A: We have a supply chain established in Sweden, from which we are supplying locations across the region. It was this supply chain that enabled us to fuel Braathens Regional Airlines (BRA) for its Perfect Flight (claimed to be the most climate-efficient) in May 2019. We have also recently supplied SAF for Delta Air Lines and Airbus in the US. In total we have so far supplied around 20 different customers including OEMs Bombardier and Dassault.

Q: How does the cost of SAF compare with fossil jet fuel?

A: SAF is currently more costly than fossil jet fuel. That’s down to the current availability of sustainable feedstocks and the continuing development of new production technologies. As the technology matures it will become more efficient and, it is expected, will become less costly.

Q: Is SAF really the key to making aviation greener?

A: SAF will play a really important role in meeting the aviation industry’s carbon reduction targets. But we need to use all the options that we have available to reduce carbon. In that regard, Air BP was the first aviation fuel supplier to be independently certified carbon neutral for into-plane fueling operations at 250 Air BP locations in October 2016.

Q: So why aren’t business-jet operators regularly using SAF?

A: At present, production of SAF is limited as the higher cost for SAF is preventing wider uptake. We are working on helping create more demand in the short-term which will lead to more production and hopefully lower costs in future.

Q: How can we accelerate the growth of SAF?

A: There is real commitment from the industry to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment.

Air BP supports the global coalition of business aviation organisations to help promote the adoption of SAF. Air BP supplied customers at Caen Carpiquet airport in France and at Stockholm Arlanda Airport in Sweden, during the first SAF fly-in to the EBACE trade show in Geneva, Switzerland in 2019.

In terms of accelerating growth of SAF, governments need to create the right policies. Increasing production requires long-term policy certainty to reduce investment risks, as well as a focus on the research, development and commercialization of improved production technologies and innovative sustainable feedstocks.


About the author

As commercial development manager for low carbon Tom Parsons is responsible for Air BP’s low-carbon strategy, and the sourcing and supply of sustainable aviation fuel. Parsons joined BP as a research chemist in 2008, working on the development and scale-up of technologies including BP’s Fischer-Tropsch process.

He has since held business-development and strategy roles in technology licensing, BP’s Fuels businesses and in Downstream commercial development. He also led BP’s Advanced Bio Products team at its inception before joining Air BP in 2017. Tom holds a Master’s degree and D.Phil in Chemistry from the University of Oxford..

Air BP, the aviation division of BP, is one of the world’s leading suppliers of aviation fuel products and services. It supplies about 6.6bn gallons of aviation fuel a year; fuelling more than 6,000 flights a day at over 800 locations in more than 55 countries – that’s more than four planes a minute.

Meanwhile, if you have a question about SAF and its applications in business aviation, please email Mike Stones.


SAF can be blended at up to 50% with fossil jet fuel and all quality tests are completed as per regular jet fuel. 

CJI Contributor
By CJI Contributor February 12, 2020 12:27

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