MEBAA Convention News

MEBAA Panel Brings Focus To SAF, Carbon Offsets

 - December 7, 2022, 12:29 AM
(L to R) Doug Carr, NBAA senior v-p; Alexandre Geahchan, Air bp Mena commercial, GA, and military account manager; Trine Braathen, World Kinect senior manager; and analyst Rolland Vincent. (Photo: David McIntosh)

While progress continues to be made in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) availability, carbon offsets are still the first and perhaps easiest means toward sustainability, said Trine Braathen, senior manager of sustainability-carbon markets for World Kinect Energy. But Braathen and other panelists speaking Tuesday at a MEBAA Show panel on strategies for business aviation sustainability, agree SAF is a key element toward meeting the industry's goals in the shorter and long term.

Braathen pointed out the various means for business aviation organizations to become more efficient but said the biggest step towards net-zero is addressing fuel. That is what makes SAF so important, she said. But given its limited availability, organizations should look at other means, such as offsets, until SAF is more accessible.

“The main challenge at the moment is actually to scale SAF,” Braathen said and noted multiple sectors, from cargo to commercial airlines, are competing for limited supply. She also pointed to the impracticalities of distribution to certain regions, for now, and the need to ensure that it would not add to the carbon footprint.

Carbon offsets, however, enable organizations in these parts of the globe to address their own footprints until SAF is readily available. Offsets further can provide an opportunity under which a financial system could be created for organizations to own and trade them, she maintained.

However, demand for offsets has spiked, pushing up prices. In early 2021, the cheapest offset projects cost less than one euro per tonne. Later that year, the same projects were costing more than nine euros. New players had come into the market to buy up the offsets and sell them back into the market. She cautioned that organizations ensure they select projects by quality rather than quantity of availability.

Meanwhile, SAF is a growing element. It’s technologically ready, with panelists stressing it is jet fuel. Alexandre Geahchan—Air bp's MENA commercial, general, and military account aviation manager—emphasized, “Its chemistry is quite similar to the fossil jet fuel that it replaces. That's why it makes a promising solution.” He added this is important because it means no changes to the engine or infrastructure. “ And it’s a solution that we can use right now” with battery energy density still remaining a stumbling block to widespread all-electric and hydrogen still off in the distance.

Even once electric and hydrogen are mature, Air bp believes SAF will still account for 75 percent of the energy demand, Geahchan said.

JetNet iQ managine director Rolland Vincent said regardless of the means, demand for sustainable options is there. Owners and operators are interested in good governance, he noted, and aircraft manufacturers have been nothing but interested in becoming more sustainable.

Vincent added that he believes regulators globally will push that along with incentives and taxes and noted these initiatives are already beginning. While there are several paths currently in the offing, he added, “If there's one thing we do really well as an industry, we're very technically savvy. We love our technology and we're going to get there with technology that we still don't even know about.”

Moderating the panel was NBAA senior v-p of safety, security, sustainability, and international Doug Carr. “It's difficult today for us to have a day go by where aviation and sustainability don't intersect in some way,” he said. “The entire aviation industry is under a lot of pressure right now from a variety of sectors…to decarbonize. But I believe the spotlight should not be something for us to fear. In fact, it's going to give us a great opportunity to highlight all the great work that we are doing to lead the industry towards the goal that we have all established as an industry of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”