Air New Zealand and New Zealand government to invest in sustainable aviation fuel studies

Amadeus invests in sustainable aviation fuel innovator CAPHENIA

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran, Air New Zealand Chief Sustainability Officer Kiri Hannifin, Air New Zealand Board Director Laurissa Cooney with Tourism Minister Peeni Henare
(L-R) Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran, Air New Zealand Chief Sustainability Officer Kiri Hannifin, Air New Zealand Board Director Laurissa Cooney with Tourism Minister Peeni Henare.

Aviation FestivalAir New Zealand and the New Zealand government have announced a NZ$2 million plus investment in next phase studies to consider the feasibility of producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the country. The announcement, including a commitment of more than NZ$1.5 million from Air New Zealand and NZ$765,000 from the Government, was made today at the launch of the draft Tourism Environment Action Plan, hosted by Air New Zealand and attended by Minister of Tourism Peeni Henare.

SAF is fuel made from waste feedstocks, like forestry residues, municipal waste, or used cooking oils, and can be ‘dropped in’ to existing refueling systems for current aircraft without any modification. The inputs and processes used to make SAF result in significantly lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than fossil jet fuel. This new investment follows an earlier year-long RFP process that invited innovators to demonstrate the viability of operating a SAF plant at a commercial scale in New Zealand. The airline, along with government officials, evaluated proposals from multiple international SAF producers to understand what technologies are available globally and how these could be transposed into the New Zealand context.

Moving into phase two, the working group is progressing two proposals: one with LanzaJet and another with Fulcrum BioEnergy, both US-based. The next phase will further evaluate the technical, economic, supply chain, and environmental feasibility of establishing and operating a SAF production facility in New Zealand.

Air New Zealand Chief Sustainability Officer Kiri Hannifin says the airline is grateful for the support from the Government to progress work considering the viability of SAF production in New Zealand. “Our climate is worsening at a rate far faster than predicted. We all need to take immediate and drastic action to protect what we love, including our land, and all that depends on her.  So much of what we rely on in Aotearoa is based on our magnificent natural assets including tourism and food production. Air New Zealand has a significant role to play in transitioning our economy to a lower carbon future and flying with SAF is a key part of this transition. Globally, SAF is in very high demand but limited supply. Commercially producing SAF in New Zealand would not only help lower the country’s emissions while creating jobs, regional economic development, and Māori and Iwi investment opportunities, but also provide energy security and energy independence which is something New Zealand doesn’t have.”

The second stage of the SAF feasibility work will continue through to early 2024.

Amadeus invests in sustainable aviation fuel innovator CAPHENIA
Amadeus has acquired a minority stake in CAPHENIA, a future producer of synthesis gas, the feedstock of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The German-based company has developed an innovative approach to produce SAF in a more affordable and scalable way. The decision is part of a wider commitment on behalf of Amadeus to support the industry on its journey toward sustainable travel.

The investment will offer Amadeus enhanced visibility into the challenges of the SAF sector, allowing the company to further explore the role it can play in this key element of the industry’s journey to net zero by 2050. 

CAPHENIA, currently in an advanced stage of development, has established an innovative approach to produce synthesis gas from a mixture of biogas, CO2, water, and electricity. This can be used to produce a variety of renewable fuels, with up to a 92 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions compared to the fossil reference value. The company has secured patent protection for its Power-and-Biogas-to-Liquid (PBtL) process in all relevant core markets worldwide, with a total of 203 granted patents.

Dr. Mark Misselhorn, Chief Executive of CAPHENIA, said: “Our process is affordable – using one-sixth of the electricity needed for alternative SAF production methods – and scalable. We have an ambition to offer large scale production by 2028, aiming to fill the gap between anticipated SAF demand and current supply.”

According to the IATA Net Zero Emission initiative, SAF has the potential to account for 65 per cent of the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions required for the aviation industry to reach net zero by 2050. New technology is also a key component in contributing to the journey ahead, including electric and hydrogen powered aircraft (13 per cent), carbon offset and capture (19 per cent) and operational efficiencies (three per cent). 

To reach the 65 percent reduction in GHG emissions, production capacity of 449 billion liters annually is estimated as needed globally. To provide perspective, SAF production in 2021 stood at just 125 million litres – or less than 0.1 per cent of the required estimated production capacity. CAPHENIA has plans to commence production next year and is forecasting to produce 10 million litres of SAF by 2027, planning to increase to over 100 million litres by 2030 and over one billion litres before 2035. 

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