British Airways inks multi-year sustainable aviation fuel supply contract


British Airways will procure SAFs from the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery to power a number of flights next year. The SAFs will be produced using waste feedstocks from the Refinery and will be supplied to British Airways via existing pipeline infrastructure that feeds directly into UK airports.

Humber Refinery General Manager Darren Cunningham said: “The Humber Refinery was the first in the UK to co-process waste oils to produce renewable fuels and now we will be the first to produce SAF at scale, and we are delighted British Airways is our first UK customer.

“We’re currently refining almost half a million litres of sustainable waste feedstocks a day, and this is just a start. Markets for lower-carbon products are growing, and this agreement demonstrates our ability to supply them.”

IAG, which owns airlines including British Airways and Aer Lingus, has pledged to power 10% of flights with SAF by 2030.

It has not clarified the percentage of SAF blend it will use; current restrictions cap biofuel blending at 50%. However, it has said it will purchase a million tonnes of SAF annually from 2030, in a move that will reduce annual emissions by two million tonnes. The business’s existing SAF suppliers include LanzaJet and Velocys.

The state of play for SAF in the UK is mixed. The technology has been supported by dozens of big businesses and with standalone funding from the Government.

However, some had been hoping for more Government funding and long-term support as part of the Covid-19 recovery package. Moreover, the UK’s first waste-to-SAF plant, spearheaded by Velocys, was dealt a blow earlier this year after Shell pulled out of the venture. Shell said in a statement in January that it was exiting the project after agreeing to jointly fund another plant in Canada, which developers claim could produce more than double the fuel using less than half the waste. Velocys expects to begin producing fuel to the original timeline of 2025, without Shell.

Questions also remain about the extent to which SAF can reduce the aviation sector’s climate impact in line with the Paris Agreement. The UK Government’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommended that, along with SAF, more should be done to scale electric aircraft and to cap demand growth.

Most recently, nations and states representing more than 40% of global aviation emissions have committed to developing a new 1.5C-aligned joint emissions target. The announcements was made at COP26.

From nations and states, a new declaration has been signed, committing signatories to jointly develop emissions targets on the road to net-zero by 2050 that are aligned with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C temperature pathway. There are 18 signatories at this stage, collectively accounting for more than 40% of global aviation emissions annually.

Additionally, the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) opened to new members for the first time last month.

The Alliance was launched in April by RMI and the Environmental Defence Fund, in the aim of bringing together the purchasing power of fuel buyers to stimulate the scaling of supply chains for alternative fuels and to encourage policy support.

Its founding members included JP Morgan Chase, Boeing, Deloitte, Microsoft, Netflix, Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group and Salesforce. New members include United Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Amazon Air – the e-commerce giant’s aviation arm.

Last year, SABA states, less than 0.1% of aviation fuel use globally was attributed to sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) produced from renewable sources or waste feedstocks. The Alliance has claimed that its work could help overcome the barriers of “disaggregated, insufficient demand” and high fuel costs.

Matt Mace

Comments (1)

  1. Kim Warren says:

    There is no such thing as "sustainable aviation fuel" until we get to truly renewably generated hydrogen. The atmosphere doesn’t care what hydrocarbons we burn to produce CO2. If made from ‘waste’ oil, those would be reprocessed in any case, so diverting it to SAF simply means someone else has to burn something else instead. If made from other agri biomass, that too would be burned in any case or else left as locked up carbon – which is where it should stay.
    We can go on fooling ourselves and creative-accounting all we like – but physics will just keep doing what physics does.

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