EBACE Convention News

SAF Availablity Slowly Rises in Europe

 - May 24, 2023, 8:17 AM
The UK's Farnborough Airport is one of less than 20 facilities in Europe to offer sustainable aviation fuel to business aviation customers. (Photo: Farnborough Airport)

While sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) may provide the best near-term solution for the decarbonization of aviation, it is still an industry very much in the early phases of development. In fact, the first commercially produced SAF ocurred less than a decade ago.

“It’s in its infancy,” noted Daniel Coertzer, CEO of the Geneva-based international division Titan Aviation Fuels  (Booth S88). “The first SAF was sold just a few years ago. We cannot yet take over or compete with the jet fuel business that has been in place since the Second World War.”

Indeed, despite SAF currently representing a minute percentage of the overall jet-fuel supply, it is an industry that is growing, but with numerous demands being placed upon it in the form of targets and mandates. In Europe, mandates on the use of SAF have been imposed in countries such as France, Sweden, and Norway, while the UK plans to make SAF 10 percent of the jet fuel consumed by 2030. Further EU-wide programs under consideration call for all flights originating from larger airports in the EU to carry a minimum amount of SAF.

“The mandates are slightly different but they have the same output, which is they are encouraging the uptake [of SAF] because you have one of two choices: you either purchase physical SAF or you pay a penalty, effectively,” said Matthew Whitton, World Fuel Services' (Booth A37) v-p of land and aviation supply for Europe.

According to industry tracker and sustainability consultancy 4Air (Booth Y111), SAF is now available consistently for business and general aviation customers at approximately 17 airports in Europe: eight in the UK, including Farnborough, Biggin Hill, and Luton airports; three in France, including Paris Le Bourget; four in Italy; and at Amsterdam Schiphol and Vienna International airports.

U.S.-based distributor AEG Fuels (Booth G46)—which has a larger SAF distribution footprint in Europe than it does in the U.S.—noted educating the users is key. “We’ve seen this problem with some locations is that they get SAF and they can’t move it because nobody knows how to buy it,” said Marc Ramthun, managing director of business aviation sales and supply. “We have this great product but if no one can find it, it doesn’t do anybody any good.”

This week at EBACE, World Fuel Services announced a new deal with leading SAF producer Neste that will increase the number of European airports World Fuel provides with SAF from 13 to 40. The U.S.-based company predicts a 20-fold increase in its SAF deliveries this year versus 2022.

“We are excited to have created a framework that enables us to more reliably provide our customers across Europe with SAF in a timely and expedient manner,” said Duncan Story, World Fuel’s v-p of aviation supply for the region. “We are confident this agreement and deeper collaboration with Neste will serve to accelerate our ability to support customers in their decarbonization ambitions across the globe.”

Yet, some indicate SAF supplies in Europe are still rather constrained in comparison to the U.S.

“Anticipation over the Refuel EU mandates has suppliers holding onto fuel to help them meet those future blending requirements or at least until they have some better clarity around them,” said 4Air president Kennedy Ricci. “It also has some operators holding back to wait for the mandates to carry them forward.”

Business aviation’s use of SAF also faces additional hurdles in competition with commercial carriers, which have existing offtake agreements for large quantities of fuel. “Demand is high relative to the supply of the product,” said Whitton. While there are some existing carve-outs for business aviation SAF supplies, “it’s been difficult to find the molecules,” Whitton told AIN.

Another factor is cost. According to sources, blended SAF can cost $2 or more per gallon than jet-A. For an ultra-long-range jet, that could add $800 to hourly operational costs.

“A lot of people would love to use [SAF], but it is just not viable in making them competitive in the pricing,” said Coetzer. “If they quote a charter and they must use set fuel [pricing], the guy that doesn’t use set fuel can come in at a much better rate.”

As the production of SAF increases, that pricing delta will decrease and put SAF pricing more on par with that of conventional fuel. The major fuel companies continue to channel their efforts into enhancing their current facilities and developing new ones to increase output. “I think that all of them are really preparing to invest their money, and they know that that’s the future,” Coetzer added.

Following the much-anticipated expansion of its Singapore SAF refinery, Neste is currently in the process of upgrading and expanding its Rotterdam facility, which will greatly augment its SAF output by 2026. Sustainable fuel producer Cepsa recently announced a partnership to establish a major refinery in Spain that is expected to come online in 2026 with an output of 500,000 tons a year.