The international business aviation community is calling on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to support incentives for use of non-fossil-fuel-based products and for states to increase use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). “This approach will be key to lowering our industry’s dependency on fossil fuels, and reducing the CO2 output from the industry, and its effect on climate change,” the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) said in a report submitted to ICAO on behalf of the Business Aviation SAF Coalition. The report was accepted by ICAO and included in the organization’s 2019 Environmental Report.
The ICAO report takes a high-level look at where the aviation industry broadly is on sustainability efforts, forecasts for the futures, and initiatives underway to improve the environmental footprint.
Business aviation operations represent 0.04 percent of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, IBAC said, but “nevertheless, our industry has demonstrated a serious commitment to the ongoing exploration of new methods and technologies to significantly reduce this figure.” Business aviation leaders have pledged to work toward the goal of 2 percent improvement in fuel efficiency each year through 2020, carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards, and a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.
To achieve those goals, business aviation needs to take a multi-faceted approach, including new technologies, operation efficiencies, improved infrastructure, market-based measures, and SAF.
SAF Potential and Challenges
IBAC called SAF “one of the most promising avenues” for achieving the goals, and that approach was codified by an agreement between business aviation leaders in 2018 to foster its use. The industry since has been conducting demonstrations to raise awareness of SAF and is now pushing to encourage an increase in supply and demand.
Multiple paths exist toward the creation of SAF, which when blended with jet-A in a 50-50 mix, meets the same ASTM standard for current aviation fuel. “It is a simple ‘drop-in’ for aircraft, indistinguishable from the completely petroleum-based product,” IBAC said, adding the mix results in a cleaner burn and reduction of overall CO2 emissions.
IBAC stressed this is critical for the business aviation industry. “Our industry’s commitment to SAF is not just about fuels, but about the future, and the business aviation license to operate.”
On ICAO’s part, the organization agrees that SAF can play a major role in reducing emissions and is encouraging states to take part in feasibility studies. Key to its success is availability, the organization said. Available data indicates that commercial production of SAF increased from an average of 0.29 million liters per year between 2013 and 2015 to 6.45 million liters per year between 2016 and 2018.
Research shows that up to eight billion liters per year of production capacity that could be used toward SAF may be available by 2032. “However, there is significant uncertainty on the share of this capacity that will be directed to SAF compared to other fuels.”
ICAO added that it is encouraging states to promote policies surrounding SAF that provide a level playing field between aviation and other transportation sectors. The organization is hosting its second SAF Stocktaking Seminar on April 28 and 29, giving stakeholders an opportunity to provide input on the process.