DHL inks deals for enough sustainable aviation fuel for 12,000 long-haul flights
Logistics giant DHL has signed deals with BP and Neste to source 800 million litres of low-carbon aviation fuel, which it is describing as the largest agreement of its kind to date.
The fuels provided by BP and Neste will be made using wastes and residues, with DHL stating that it will not accept fuels made using bio-based materials which compete with food production or causes land-use change.
DHL is claiming that the fuels will produce up to 80% less emissions over their lifecycle compared with the conventional jet fuel that they will replace.
DHL’s parent company, Deutsche Post DHL Group, has notably committed to using a 30% blend of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) by 2030. There is an interim target for the DHL Express business to reach 10% SAF blends for all aviation by 2026. The new deals with BP and Neste are set to take DHL Express halfway towards this latter goal.
For context, DHL has stated that 800 million litres of SAF would be enough to power 12,000 long-haul flights between Cincinnati and Leipzig using a 100% SAF blend.
But, it bears noting that there is currently an international limit on SAF blending, set at 50%.
“With every SAF deal, we are increasingly aware of the huge task that lies ahead in utilising more sustainable solutions to help our customers,” said DHL Express’s chief executive John Pearson.
“Not a day goes by without our customers asking us about low-carbon logistics solutions and to partner them in our joint aspiration to be part of creating a more sustainable future.
“The new SAF deals with bp and Neste are milestones on this journey. Our key focus is to inspire more SAF suppliers to address the current supply gap. At the same time, we are calling on policymakers to set the right framework to accelerate market ramp-up of SAF in the EU and worldwide, including an accounting mechanism that allows flexible SAF purchases and usage.”
DHL signed a separate SAF deal with Air France KLM Martinair Cargo last month, covering 33 million litres of SAF through to 2025.
SAF policy landscape
At present, the EU is proposing a mandatory requirement for fuel suppliers to airports to use SAF blends as standard. It has put forward the proposal of a 2% SAF blend in the first instance, gradually increasing to 63% through to 2050.
The UK Government is also mulling a SAF mandate. Its proposals involve requirements for jet fuel producers to ensure that at least 10% of their production annually is SAF by 2030, rising to 75% by 2050.
The UK Government’s approach to decarbonising aviation is broadly in line with that of the UK Sustainable Aviation coalition, which is prioritising efficient planes with SAF use over electric alternatives and refuses to cap passenger numbers. Some have argued that this is the wrong approach; the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has recommended that, along with SAF, more should be done to scale electric aircraft and to cap demand growth. In fact, the CCC’s most optimistic for national use of SAFs is 7% by 2030.
Deutsche Post DHL Group’s long-term climate target is net-zero by 2050. The firm has committed to invest Є7bn (£5.95bn) in decarbonisation measures by 2030 as it works towards that target.
As well as SAFs, priority investment areas include electric aircraft, zero-emission vehicles for last-mile deliveries and technologies to reduce emissions associated with buildings.
COP26 saw DHL, along with dozens of other companies operating in hard-to-abate sectors, co-founding the ‘First Movers Coalition’. This collaborative initiative is aiming to scale demand and supply for emerging technologies including SAF.
Despite this progress, the ambition and credibility of DHL’s net-zero plans has been questioned. A recent report from the New Climate Institute and Carbon Market Watch, which assessed how robust 25 corporate net-zero plans are, called DHL’s approach “very low integrity”.
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Stop lying DHL. There is no such thing as "sustainable aviation fuel" until we get to nuclear/renewable hydrogen. The atmosphere doesn’t care what we burn to produce CO2.