- 28 Oct 2022
- Chris Kjelgaard
- Engines - BizAv
Although dwarfed by the airline industry in terms of fuel burned and passengers carried, Business Aviation is playing an important role in the development of sustainable aviation fuel production and usage. Chris Kjelgaard explores.Back to Articles
Today the entire aviation industry is calling for the world’s fuel refiners to produce 80 billion gallons of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) annually by 2050 as it strives to achieve the industry-wide target of net zero carbon emissions by that year.
Achieving the goal is still a very long way away. The US – whose aviation industry is both a leading producer and consumer of traditional jet fuel – has already enacted legislation promoting annual production of 35 billion gallons of SAF domestically by 2050, helping its aviation sector reach net zero.
Nevertheless, its shorter-term target of producing three billion gallons of SAF annually by 2030 indicates the scale of the task ahead. Last year, the entire US refining industry managed to produce just 80 million gallons of SAF.
Even if the US and other national aviation fuel-producing nations (there are 28 today) reach their planned SAF-refining targets in 2050, there may remain a very large gap between their combined production and the aviation industry’s potential need for SAF.
By 2050 the aviation industry is forecast to consume 455 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, according to Stephane Albert, Pratt & Whitney Canada’s Associate Director for Strategic Sustainability – but to date the 2050 SAF production target adopted by the entire sector is less than one-fifth of that amount.
There is no total fuel-consumption metric available for the Business Aviation sector, either for today or as a forecast for 2050, but while it is certain that BizAv will account for only a small amount of fuel burned compared with the airline sector, Business Aviation will have a very important role as a community in furthering global production and usage of SAF because of the nature of the customers and users, Albert says.
Many of Business Aviation’s users are either very profitable companies which employ business aircraft to transport executives and staffers, or they’re financially secure – often considerably wealthy – individuals who either own or charter business aircraft for personal or business transportation requirements.
In terms of its interest in consuming SAF and developing SAF production, this user community has one specific characteristic that other parts of the civil aviation and their users lack. According to Albert, Business Aviation users have enough money not to worry about paying additional costs associated with SAF usage while limited production causes it to remain much more expensive to buy than conventional jet fuel.
“I think the thing Business Aviation brings to the table is that people won’t mind paying the extra cost associated with SAF development,” he says. “You won’t find that in the other aviation segments.”
So far that indeed seems to be the case. Business Aviation as a whole is “quite enthusiastic about SAF and the role it will play in achieving the goal of net zero,” says Kurt Edwards, Director General of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC).
“Many parties want to purchase and participate in SAF, but Business Aviation operators are smaller and fly to secondary airports, where SAF is unlikely to be.”
Mechanisms exist helping Business Aviation users to make practical use of SAF despite its limited availability. Book-and-claim structures involving high-quality carbon-offsetting programs prominent among them, while some BizAv services providers and trade associations have already proved willing to tackle the availability problem head-on.
According to Edwards, last year one sizable FBO operator made SAF available at 41 of its US FBO locations for Business Aviation operators. And Jet Aviation “was instrumental” in providing SAF at Zurich Airport in 2021 to the business jet operators which flew clients there for the World Economic Forum at Davos.
Additionally, says Edwards, SAF was available to operators attending the 2022 EBACE exhibition and convention in Geneva (and that presumably will remain the case for this year’s EBACE event).
In the US, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) arranged to have SAF provided at its 2022 BACE exhibition and convention in Orlando and will again arrange for it to be offered at this year’s BACE in Las Vegas.
But beyond these well intentioned individual initiatives, Business Aviation has a wider role to play in promoting SAF development.
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