Five new airlines have been accepted as members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), an airline-led industry working group focused on accelerating the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels: Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, TUIfly and Virgin Blue.
Current airline members include Air France, Air New Zealand, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Cargolux, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS and Virgin Atlantic Airways. Boeing and Honeywell’s UOP, a refining technology developer, are associate members.
SAFUG defines sustainable aviation fuels as ones meeting set sustainability criteria that can be processed to yield a fuel that can be a drop in replacement for, or blended with, existing jet fuel. Sustainable fuels will utilize existing distribution, storage, and fueling systems, and will not require any changes to existing commercial jet engines. Examples of possible sources for sustainable aviation fuel are: algae, camelina, halophytes, jatropha, and non-food cellulose.
Since its launch in the fall of 2008, SAFUG has established a foundation of airlines, environmental organizations, research projects and practices and principles.
In addition to previously announced research projects on algae and jatropha curcas, the group will also launch a sustainability assessment of halophytes, a class of plants that thrive in saltwater habitat, later this year. That effort will assess lifecycle CO2 emissions and socio-economic impacts. Additional details will be announced closer to the project launch date.
User Group members have pledged to work through the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), a global multi-stakeholder initiative, consisting of leading environmental organizations, financiers, biofuel developers, biofuel-interested petroleum companies, the transportation sector, developing-world poverty alleviation associations, research entities, and governments.
Working through User Group representatives, aviation industry input is being included in Version 1 RSB principles and standards, which will be the first widely reviewed and accepted set of international standards for sustainable biofuel production. These standards will be tested, improved and tailored via future User Group and RSB stakeholder efforts and verified through peer-reviewed research and development collaboration.
For example, the sustainability assessments of algae, jatropha and halophyte fuels will be subject to scientific peer review and used by the RSB process to guide improvements to Version 1.
Tremendous technical progress has been demonstrated over the past several years, and as we move closer to approval to use these advanced generation fuels, we are rapidly developing sustainability practices and conducting ongoing research to ensure we remain on the right path.—Billy Glover, managing director, Environmental Strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes
In June, Boeing and a team from across the aviation industry released high-level elements of a study showing that Bio-Derived Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (Bio-SPK) test fuels performed as well as or better than typical petroleum-based Jet A. The testing included several commercial airplane engine types using blends of up to 50% petroleum-based Jet A/Jet A-1 fuel and 50% sustainable biofuels. (Earlier post.)
To be eligible for membership, SAFUG members must subscribe to sustainability criteria that stipulate the following:
Jet fuel plant sources should be developed in a manner that is non-competitive with food and where biodiversity impacts are minimized; in addition, the cultivation of those plant sources should not jeopardize drinking water supplies.
Total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from plant growth, harvesting, processing and end-use should be significantly reduced compared to those associated with jet fuels from fossil sources.
In developing economies, development projects should include provisions or outcomes that improve socio-economic conditions for small-scale farmers who rely on agriculture to feed them and their families and that do not require the involuntary displacement of local populations.
High conservation value areas and native eco-systems should not be cleared and converted for jet fuel plant source development.