Qantas will purchase blended sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) starting in January to help reduce its carbon emissions by around 10 percent for its flights from London. The national carrier has signed an agreement with strategic partner bp to purchase 10 million litres of SAF in 2022 with an option to purchase up to another 10 million litres in 2023 and 2024 for flights from Heathrow Airport. This represents up to 15 percent of Qantas’ annual fuel use out of London. The fuel will be produced with certified bio feedstock from used cooking oil and/or other waste products. This is then blended with normal jet fuel.
The use of SAF is increasing globally – particularly in Europe, the UK and United States – as governments and industry work together to find ways to steadily decarbonise the aviation sector. Qantas is in discussions about accessing SAF at its other overseas ports, such as Los Angeles, and recently joined other oneworld airlines in signing a memorandum of understanding to use SAF for flights from San Francisco from 2024. These volume agreements are crucial to bringing the cost of SAF down, which can be several times more expensive than traditional jet kerosene.
Qantas Group Chief Sustainability Officer Andrew Parker said sustainable aviation fuel was key to the airline meeting its target of net zero emissions by 2050 and its interim target, which will be released in the first half of next year. “We know that climate change is incredibly important for our customers, employees and investors and it is a major focus for the national carrier as we come out of a difficult couple of years,” Parker said. “Zero emission technology like electric aircraft or green hydrogen are still a very long way off for aviation, and even further away for long haul flights like London to Australia. SAF and high quality carbon offsetting are therefore critical on the path to net zero. Aviation biofuels typically deliver around an 80 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to the jet fuel it is replacing and is the most significant tool airlines have to reduce their impact on the environment.
“The technology is already tried and tested and it can be used in the aircraft we have now, which is why government and industry overseas are investing heavily to build their own SAF industries,” Parker said. “Given the importance of aviation to Australia, and the distances we travel, there’s a huge opportunity to build a local SAF industry here. The Qantas Group would be its biggest customer and we’ve already committed $50 million in seed funding, but it’s going to take a concerted effort from industry and government to make this happen.”
Martin Thomsen, senior vice president of Air bp, said “Our aspiration at Air bp is to become a leader in the supply of SAF and we are committed to working with customers to scale up its use. We believe it is one of the key routes to reducing carbon emissions in the aviation industry. Selling SAF to Qantas at London Heathrow demonstrates not only the aim of both companies towards decarbonising aviation but also doing so at one of the most important airports in the world.”
While Qantas and Jetstar have flown several demonstration flights using SAF – including a flight across the Pacific in 2018 powered by biofuel derived from mustard seeds – this is the first time an Australian airline will purchase SAF on an ongoing basis.