Member airlines of the world’s third-largest aviation alliance recently committed to purchasing 200 million gallons of Sustainable Aviation Fuel a year.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF, has been touted recently as one of the best alternatives to pure fossil fuel-based aviation fuel (behind 100% renewable energy like hydrogen). Many airlines around the world are already looking to the fuel as a necessity for reaching the expansive climate targets the aviation industry has settled on. While the world waits for manufacturers like Airbus to develop technology allowing for 100% renewable flights, the reduced-emission SAF looks like the perfect transitionary fuel for a more climate-conscious industry. What’s more, with the west’s reliance on Russian oil quickly coming to an end, SAF can provide a much needed ‘dilution’ of dwindling fuel supplies, enabling reserves to last for longer. That’s owing to the fact that SAF is usually mixed with standard aviation fuel to create a lower emission fuel source for aircraft. So why have airlines not completely adopted SAF? Well, that’s because it’s expensive to make, and in short supply. The infrastructure just doesn’t exist at the moment to mass produce SAF on a global scale, owing to the expensive synthetisation process that must occur to extract usable fuel from sustainable sources like waste biological products. As long as there is a cost behind SAF, its adoption will be slowed, reducing supply and thus making the fuel more expensive – it’s a real catch-22. The best solution to this is for players in the industry to bite the bullet and buy SAF in huge amounts, thus spurring demand which will, in turn, provide a financial incentive to improve the infrastructure, increasing the global supply. That’s why the recent move from certain Oneworld member airlines to purchase huge amounts of the fuel on a year-by-year basis is a step in the right direction.
The fuel will be provided by Colorado-based Gevo, a renewable-fuel producing corporation. The purchasing is expected to begin by 2027, and will persist for a five-year term. I really hope that term becomes extended, as I truly believe it is commitments like this which will kickstart the renewable fuel industry. Dr Patrick R. Gruber, Gevo’s Chief Executive Officer, seems to agree with me, as he stated “When Oneworld member airlines show they understand the importance of reducing fossil-carbon greenhouse gas emissions, they start making real change in the industry.” The fuel itself comes from alcohol, which is obtained through sustainable farming, a process which not only produces SAF but benefits the planet with soil-enriching methods. Overall, it’s a win-win for Planet Earth, and demonstrates Oneworld’s commitment to a sustainable industry. The alliance’s CEO, Rob Gurney, explained as much in a statement, saying: “Five months ago, we committed as an alliance to a target of 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030. Today’s announcement of a second major sustainable aviation fuel offtake among member airlines builds further upon that commitment, while demonstrating the value that can be delivered when our member airlines work together.” A huge step in the right direction from Oneworld, and I hope to see other alliances following in their footsteps moving forward.