Swedavia and Heathrow Looking To Increase SAF Uptake

 - July 24, 2019, 12:48 PM

Swedish airport operator Swedavia and Heathrow hope to stimulate the availability and uptake of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), though their approaches toward reaching their goals differ markedly. While state-owned Swedavia has reached out to private businesses and staff to help fund the purchase of SAFs, privately held Heathrow Airport believes the UK government should step in. Speaking during Heathrow Airport Holdings’ results presentation for the first six months on Tuesday, CEO John Holland-Kaye urged the UK government to invest “some” of the nearly £4 billion ($4.98 billion) annual revenue raised through the Air Passenger Duty (APD) to increase production of sustainable fuels. “Given the scale of the challenge and society’s desire to address climate change, it is right that the money air passengers are already paying [in APD levies] should be spent alongside contributions from industry to scale up alternative sustainable fuels and develop new clean technologies sooner,” the UK airport operator asserted.  

Heathrow supports the UK’s target of a net zero carbon economy by 2050, though it stressed scope exists for the country’s government to help the aviation industry “move faster by working with other governments to prioritize sustainable fuels for aviation, which is the hardest sector to decarbonize, and set common and progressive targets for the percentage of aviation fuel that must be from sustainable sources.” The company, which manages Europe’s busiest airport, appealed to ICAO to set targets for the use of biofuels in aviation.

There is barely any demand for SAFs because the price remains high and the scale of production low, Swedavia head of environment Lena Wennberg told AIN. In an effort to help counter the trend, the company in 2016 started by buying 450 tonnes of bio jet fuel and has been doing so every year since. The group, which operates 10 airports in the country, including Stockholm Arlanda, pays the premium price and makes the SAF available to all airlines—Swedish, European, and non-European—at no additional cost. “This represents a major investment for us, but it is part of our own sustainability goals and the Fossil-Free Sweden initiative, which aims to have fossil-free Swedish domestic air travel by 2030 and fossil-free international air travel by 2045,” she explained. The 450 tonnes annually is the equivalent to the amount of fuel used for Swedavia staff’s air travel for business purposes and corresponds to carbon dioxide emissions from about 1,500 round-trip flights between Stockholm and New York or 10,000 round-trip flights between Stockholm and LuleĆ„.

Air BP supplied the 2019 batch of bio jet fuel, produced from used cooking oil by Finland’s Neste in Europe, in contrast to earlier deliveries transported by ship from California.

Swedavia now wants to raise the amount in line with its target of making available 5 percent of all jet fuel used for refueling at its airports fossil-free by 2025. “We will need to double the amount each year if we want to reach our goal,” Wennberg said, while conceding that securing funding is not an easy task. Swedavia launched a scheme in which companies and organizations can participate by offsetting the fuel used for their business travel and bridge the price gap. So far, Swedavia secured three companies willing to participate in the 2020 procurement. That is not sufficient to pay for 900 tonnes of SAF. “Maybe we need some regulatory help and the introduction of a quota system like in Norway,” Wennberg asserted. The Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment is requiring that at least 0.5 percent advanced biofuel be mixed with conventional jet fuel sold in the country from 2020. Sweden is considering a 1 percent biofuel quota from 2021.