Erin Spillane Telluride Daily Press
Sustainable fuel touches down at TEX
April 27, 2021
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  • The Telluride Regional Airport (TEX) has become the first Colorado fixed-base operator (FBO) to offer sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, to its customers.

    Airport manager Kenny Maenpa said that the move was three years in the making.

    “We’re delighted to be able to offer this and are especially proud to be the first in the state,” Maenpa said. “We have been following the technology on this for some time.”

    Maenpa explained that deliveries of SAF began with a successful trial run at the end of February that has paved the way for the airport to supply the fuel on an ongoing basis to its aviation customers.

    The sustainable aviation fuel at TEX is produced using sustainably sourced, renewable waste and residue materials like used cooking oil.

    Maenpa pointed to figures from Neste, which manufactures the fuel, that every 7,600-gallon truckload of the fuel represents a 22-tonne reduction in CO2 emissions over its lifecycle, the equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by 28.7 acres of American forests every year.

    “Our focus has been getting SAF into our branded fuel coming into the airport to reduce our carbon emissions and do our part to address global climate change,” he said. “It’s common sense.”

    Maenpa added, “Really, we are echoing what the community has an interest in. I think this really lends itself to the identity of Telluride and San Miguel County in trying to be good stewards of our natural environment.”

    A news release announcing the move noted that the fuel meets international standards for safety and suitability and is a “drop-in fuel,” meaning that it is blended with conventional aviation fuel.

    The result is a completely interchangeable substitute for conventional jet fuel that does not require adaptation of the plane engine or airport infrastructure.

    “It is not necessary to make any changes to the existing aircraft fuel infrastructure,” Maenpa explained. “For instance, no need to sequester SAF in separate storage tanks. This is fully encompassed into our existing set-up here, and there are zero issues in terms of how we distribute with our mobile fuel trucks.”

    Climate scientist Dr. Adam Chambers, who volunteers for the Pinhead Institute, said that the introduction of sustainable aviation fuel was a positive development.

    “I am impressed by the leadership role that Kenny and the airport board have taken,” Chambers said. “Climate change is a global threat, but solutions begin locally. TEX understands this and is meeting the challenge of decarbonizing aviation transportation by investing in fuels that help reduce their carbon footprint, while being acutely mindful of safety.”

    Chambers added, “Take a minute to think about the amount of fuel that they are purchasing and how TEX is affecting the market with their purchasing preferences. … Like ripples in a pond, our small steps can be amplified when others take small steps as well.”

    He noted that San Miguel County residents have a carbon footprint about twice the size of the national per capita carbon footprint, in part because area energy consumption relating to transportation is large.

    “We can implement energy efficiency practices, invest in more sustainable energy sources, like blended jet fuel and renewable electricity, and consume less,” Chambers said. “It is inspiring to see the airport becoming part of the climate solution.”

    The folks at TEX have an additional reason for breaking out the Champagne this month. Leading industry publication Aviation International News named the Telluride airport one of the best FBOs in the Rocky Mountain region in its 2021 survey.

    “We are very proud of this,” Maenpa said of the accolade. “We have a small, dedicated group of staff here and an airport board that has consistently emphasized quality customer service. I feel like this is a reward for our staff delivering on that desire for excellent service, and I think it meets the standard of a world-class resort like Telluride.”

    San Miguel County Commissioner Kris Holstrom, a Telluride Regional Airport Authority board member, said she was pleased with both the introduction of sustainable aviation fuel and the award.

    “It’s an important and exciting opportunity for the aviation community that enjoys Telluride to participate in a small measure of greenhouse gas reduction over business as usual,” Holstrom noted. “And kudos to Kenny and the airport staff for achieving the Aviation International News listing as a top FBO in the Rocky Mountain region. They have worked hard and very strategically to improve all sorts of aspects of airport operations — and it shows. The listing shows that others have noticed as well.”

    Holstrom added, “As a member of the board, I have brought environmental issues important to the county to our meetings. I have been very pleased that the board and management are understanding and supportive. The SAF is one aspect of this and is greatly appreciated. I know that Kenny is always on the lookout for ways to improve airport operations while addressing sustainability and energy efficiency.”