British Airways announced today that it had signed a multi-year agreement for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This will be provided by the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery in North Lincolnshire, which will be the first to produce SAF at scale in the UK. The fuel will be derived from sustainable waste sources and power BA flights from 2022 onwards.
Important step on the way to net-zero
UK flag carrier BA has agreed to purchase enough sustainable fuel to reduce CO2 lifecycle emissions by almost 100,000 tonnes. That is the equivalent of powering 700 net-zero transatlantic flights from London to New York with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
“This agreement marks another important step on our journey to net zero carbon emissions and forms part of our commitment, as part of International Airlines Group, to power 10% of flights with SAF by 2030,” said Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in a statement issued on Friday.
“We are excited to develop our relationship with Phillips 66 Limited further with a view to growing production capacity and using a wider range of sustainable waste feedstocks to supply our future flights,” Doyle continued, adding that the UK has the opportunity to become a global leader in the development of SAF.
The fuel will be produced from sustainable waste feedstocks that offer up to 80% less CO2 emissions compared to conventional fossil-based jet fuel. The Humber refinery will deliver the fuel to BA through existing infrastructure directly to UK airports.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Lower-carbon market growing
One of the most significant challenges to increasing the use of SAF across the industry is not necessarily airlines’ unwillingness to incorporate more of it. Instead, the low supply leads to high costs and, at times, downright unavailability. The Humber Refinery was the first in the UK to co-process waste oils to produce renewable fuels and will now be the first to make SAF at scale.
“We’re currently refining almost half a million litres of sustainable waste feedstocks a day, and this is just a start. Markets for lower-carbon products are growing, and this agreement demonstrates our ability to supply them,” said Humber Refinery General Manager and Lead Executive for Phillips 66 in the UK, Darren Cunningham.
Are biofuels the right priority?
BA’s parent group IAG has set a target of powering its flights to 10% with SAF by 2030. It has also invested $400 million (approximately £301 million) in the development of sustainable fuels over the next two decades.
Meanwhile, some, such as UK competitor easyJet, would caution against investing too much too soon into current-generation biofuels, suggesting more effort should go towards emerging synthetic kerosene technology.
E-fuels, as they are often called due to the electrolysis procedure through which they are produced, offer the potential of up to 99% fewer CO2 emissions across their lifecycle when compared to fossil fuels.