Safran Boss Tells EU Commission SAF Mandates Are ‘Too Shy’

 - March 22, 2023, 3:23 PM
Safran CEO Olivier Andriès called on the EU Commission to heighten its ambitions on SAF uptake timetables. (Photo: Safran)

Safran CEO Olivier Andriès has warned the European Commission that the region might fall behind the U.S. if it does not increase its incentives for airlines to use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and for the oil industry to advance SAF production capacity.

Speaking at the Clean Aviation Annual Forum in Brussels on Wednesday, the French engine maker’s chief executive rebuffed remarks by Henrik Hololei, director general of the EC’s mobility and transport department, that the ReFuelEU Aviation legislative proposal introducing an EU-wide SAF blending mandate will “de-risk the production of SAF” and ensure that sufficient SAF will be available to help the industry reach its decarbonization goals. Legislators expect the obligation to start in 2025 with a minimum volume of SAF at 2 percent, increasing in five-year intervals to ultimately reach a minimum volume of 63 percent in 2050.

“I agree with the [DG Move] director-general that we are not going to be carbon neutral by 2050 with new [aircraft and engine] technologies,” said Andriès. “SAF is going to be the major lever in the carbon-emissions reduction. [But] we as an industry, we have to tell the director-general at this event here that the European Commission is too shy. Because if we stick to a target of a 6 percent incorporation of SAF in 2030 we will be outpaced as a continent by the U.S. Under the Biden administration, there is a strong momentum on the decarbonization of aviation. Especially on SAF there is the goal to go much faster and have at least a 10 percent incorporation of SAF by 2030.

“We have to be mindful that there is a race,” he added. “We have to be careful not to be outpaced.”

In Europe, Andriès remarked, the usual way forward involves “punishing” people through regulation and taxes while the U.S. relies on incentives.

The Safran boss also cautioned the EU co-legislators, who have not yet reached a compromise on the ReFuelEU Aviation proposal, not to be too restrictive on the definition of SAF. “We must be pragmatic; we must be smart and focused on the global objective of rapidly increasing the availability and production of SAF,” Andriès noted. “If our definition of SAF is too stringent, we are not going to achieve our goals.”

He stressed that from a technology point of view, the OEMs’ current engines will accommodate “close to 100 percent” SAF and the next generation of engines will all be capable of running on 100 percent SAF.

Safran is investing “massively” in technologies to contribute to zero-emission aviation by 2050, Andriès told the audience attending the conference organized by Clean Aviation, the EU’s public-private partnership that supports research and innovation to reduce the emissions of short- to medium-range aircraft by no less than 30 and 50 percent, respectively, compared with contemporary aircraft. Investments include the RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) program, which Safran launched in 2021 in cooperation with GE, to develop technologies for a new generation of aircraft engines that could burn 20 percent less fuel and produce 20 percent less CO2 by the mid-2030s. Other investments provide for the development of hybrid or fully electric propulsion technologies.

“There are a large number of projects for new air mobility, with either fully electric or a hybrid electric propulsion,” said Andriès. “Not all of these projects will succeed, but they are driving the industry forward.” The main challenge, he added, involves the certification of such new propulsion technologies. “[Safran has] the ambition to have the first electric engine certified by the end of this year,” he reported. “We are well on our way to achieving that goal.”