Is ‘SAF’ the new buzzword in aviation?
During the Corporate Jet Investor event held in London during February 2023, a number of sustainability goals were discussed in the aviation industry.
One of the central themes was that of alternative fuels for business jets. It is hoped that available alternatives might provide a workable and environmentally friendly solution to traditional, fossil-based, jet fuels.
SAF – Sustainable Aviation Fuel – what is it ?
The aviation industry has always been at the forefront of development. It has seen considerable growth during the last few years. This growth was particularly marked during COVID, when travel had become impossible due to commercial lines being grounded. Naturally, this raised concerns about the increased carbon footprint of this high-powered industry. Every industry is now talking of sustainability and lower carbon emissions, whether it is road vehicles, yacht, ships or aircraft. Business aviation is not immune to the global pressure being felt.
SAF is a next-generation fuel which is made from renewable waste and residue raw materials, such as used cooking oil or other agricultural products or waste. Compared to jet fossil-fuel, SAF is claimed to be able to reduce carbon emissions by 80%. Since it is chemically similar to jet fuel, SAF can be used as a direct replacement – although it is much more expensive and has so far been added to jet fuel. SAF is highly compatible with jet fuel. There is no need for the aircraft owner or operator to invest in additional system capabilities or to adapt the aircraft in order to use SAF. It is just added to the traditional fuel.
SAF has been in use since 2016 but recent industry stakeholders have further promoted its use. Customers have become more savvy around the need to limit emissions and to neutralize their carbon footprint.
Lending companies and financiers now tend to insist that an element of sustainability is worked into the business plan of the financier. Servicing companies – aircraft operating companies, brokers – also have a part in pushing towards further use of SAF.
SAF is still very expensive. This means that only a small percentage of the fuel used is SAF. It needs to be sourced in a manner that becomes feasible and that will therefore make it possible for aircraft to use SAF more widely.
The participants at the conference – over 580 professionals – seemed to converge on the idea that SAF will indeed see increased take-up. The industry has a key role to play in all of this, in ensuring that the use of SAF becomes the given practice.
Interestingly, while discussing SAF, sustainability and aviation, environmentalist protestors broke into the room. They accused business jet operators of causing unacceptable levels of pollution. They claimed that there is a high number of emissions in proportion to the small number of passengers. In a recent incident at Sciphol airport, hundreds of climate activists descended on the private jet section. They stopped aircraft from departing by sitting in front of their wheels. It is claimed that at least one of the flights delayed was a medical flight. The organisations involved (Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion) claimed that they were protesting the aviation industry’s pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as local noise pollution.
From the business aviation community perspective, the industry itself accounts for less than 0.4% of world emissions, even if there is no denying that it is in itself a culprit. The industry and its stakeholders are thoroughly engaged in neutralisation of carbon emissions. Across the board, there appears to be commitment towards more sustainable technologies, lighter materials and research to continue to reduce carbon emissions.
Business aviation – bizav – generates a large number of jobs and is a high contributor to the GDP of any economy. The industry itself promotes mobility of important resources (e.g. medical flights) and has helped world connectivity when commercial aviation (airlines) were unable to provide services. Bizav remains at the forefront of the development – and promotion – of SAF and SAF technologies.
At Acumum, we commend sustainable projects and sustainability as part of our corporate social responsibility and we are happy to service clients and counterparts in bizav having sustainable goals.
Dr Geraldine Spiteri Director and Advocate – Acumum Legal & AdvisoryAcumum Legal & Advisory’s Marine & Aviation team was present and participated in the discussions surrounding areas of interest to its maritime clients. The team is headed up by Dr Geraldine Spiteri, whose main practice areas are maritime and yachting, aviation and transport and corporate law. Dr Spiteri has worked in the yachting industry for over ten years, brings with her a range of experience and contacts that enables Acumum to ensure an all-round service to yacht-owning clients.
Dr. Geraldine Spiteri. I Head of Marine & Aviation.
[email protected] +366 2778 1700 ext 403