Dubai Airshow

Air bp Turns Focus toward Sustainability

 - November 12, 2021, 4:00 AM
While its post-Covid rebound still lags that of the general aviation sector, Air bp reports its Middle Eastern commercial fuel volumes are steadily rising. (Image: Air bp)

Sustainability is rapidly becoming a major area of interest for the entire aviation industry, with its stated goals of halving its carbon emissions by 2050. Fuel producers carry a key to those ambitions—namely in their embrace of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF)—and global fuel provider Air bp is focusing on its SAF initiatives this week at the Dubai Airshow. The company will serve as a sponsor and presenter at the show’s aviation sustainability conference on November 15, with global sustainability director Andreea Moyes speaking on disruptive technologies affecting SAF development.

The topic will serve as a major theme at the Air bp stand (1328) as well. “I think the main challenge we’ve got as an industry is how do we get from the goals that have been out there in terms of [SAF] and moving from where we are today, less than one percent of our global demand, to getting to the levels that we need to get to, to meet those global targets,” said Laura Bowden, the UK-based company’s global marketing manager.

Speaking with AIN ahead of the show, she noted the company's “kind of portfolio approach" to SAF supply. “When we look at supply, we’re looking at three different areas," she said. "One is offtakes from other producers and we have a number of agreements in place and we’re utilizing them today for our SAF supply.” The company also has invested in other SAF producers such as Fulcrum BioEnergy, a pioneer of the production of renewable transportation fuels from solid municipal waste. “The third one is investments in our own refineries as well,” said Bowden, citing its facility in Castellón, Spain, which just became the world’s first refinery to receive certification under the Carbon Compensation and Reduction Plan for Aviation (Corsia). Issued by the International Sustainability Carbon Certification (ISCC), the Corsia certificate certifies the incorporation of biogenic raw materials in aviation fuel.

“We are seeing that we need to get the [SAF] demand coming up to bring the prices down to drive future demand,” Bowden told AIN.  She expects the demand will rise based on SAF-usage mandates being imposed in Europe, as well as from voluntary acceptance by the industry.

“I think it’s been really encouraging the last six months, more so in the general aviation than the commercial space at the moment,” she said.

As for the Middle East, Bowden said that as in other regions, customers have reached various stages in their education process regarding SAF. “We’ve got those that are looking at options, looking at what are the next steps if there are areas where they can purchase [SAF],” she said. “I don’t think we’ve had any to date in our Middle Eastern customers purchasing SAF, but as those numbers increase, we expect them to come on board as well.”

While supplies of SAF have not become readily available in the Middle East, that shouldn’t present a barrier for the area’s operators to explore its usage, according to Bowden.

“The reality for a lot of our customers in the region is they have very strong links into Europe and, of course, Europe is a region where we have access to physical SAF at a number of locations, so we can utilize that and then book-and-claim is an option as well,” she explained. Book-and-claim is a process by which customers can purchase SAF still available only at a limited number of locations and receive the appropriate environmental credits, even though the fuel gets dispensed elsewhere and consumed by an entirely different aircraft.

Air bp recently introduced its book-and-claim program, managed independently by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), “to give customers that reassurance that book-and-claim is a valid way of accessing SAF, and increasing the overall demand for SAF globally,” said Bowden. The program must meet strict accounting to ensure that the credits for reporting programs such as Corsia are not double-counted. The fuel producer plans to expand the program's availability beyond Europe and the U.S., the only markets in which it now applies. 

In terms of overall jet fuel demand in the region, the company sees the same industry bifurcation that had taken effect with the rise of the pandemic. “If we look at the two different types of markets, we’ve seen our general aviation market recover quite considerably and much quicker than our commercial airlines in volumes, but we are seeing those return now,” noted Bowden. “They’re not back at 2019 levels, but we are expecting them to come back as well over the next couple of months.”

The company also has begun studying the development of hydrogen technology and, in September, parent company BP formed a partnership with ADNOC and Masdar to develop low carbon hydrogen hubs and decarbonized air corridors between the UK and UAE.

Air bp operates at eight airports in the UAE including Al Maktoum International, Dubai International, Abu Dhabi International, Sharjah International, and Al Bateen Executive, and it has begun the process of introducing digitalization to its fueling operations worldwide. The upgrades currently in effect at approximately 450 locations make it easier to collect data and provide faster customer response, improving efficiency for operators. Through the use of technology such as decal scanning, digitalization also provides another layer of protection against mistakes such as misfuelling.