Tom Otley Business Traveller
Heathrow tests Sustainable Aviation Fuel supply to airlines
June 8, 2021
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  • Heathrow is testing adding Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to its fuel supply at the airport.

    It is working with both Vitol Aviation and Neste to add SAF into its fuel distribution. SAF is a ‘drop-in’ fuel, meaning it can be added to existing fuel and used by conventional aircraft without adaptation to their engines, but it is more expensive than existing aviation fuel, and so is currently used for only a tiny fraction of flights.

    Heathrow says that the supply is intended to serve as ‘proof of concept’, and in total, the amount of SAF would only be enough to fuel 5-10 short haul flights, though it will be blended to use across many more flights operating at Heathrow over the next few days. The hope is that government support will allow SAF to be used commercially at Heathrow, though at present it is too expensive for airlines to utilise in their operations.

    The type of SAF being used is called HEFA (Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids) which can be made from vegetable oils, waste oils or fats. The HEFA being used at Heathrow is made from waste (such as used cooking oil), residues (such as fish fat waste from the food processing industry) and sustainably sourced vegetable oils.

    Vitol Aviation is a specialist in the handling and supply of jet fuel and has paid for the supply of SAF for the trial. Neste produces the SAF which is produced from 100 per cent renewable and sustainable waste and residue raw materials, such as used cooking oil and animal and fish fat waste. Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel in its neat form and over the life cycle, reduces up to 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil jet fuel use.

    To increase the amount of SAF used in aviation, Heathrow is calling for the UK Government to set escalating mandates that would require a minimum of 10 per cent SAF use by airlines by 2030, increasing to at least 50 per cent by 2050. This should be alongside commercial incentives for airlines to stimulate demand and foster investment, and to help ensure the UK is at the forefront of SAF production.

    The airport says that 58 per cent of Heathrow airlines by air traffic movements have committed to 10 per cent SAF usage by 2030.

    Heathrow Chief Executive Officer, John Holland-Kaye said: “We are delighted that Heathrow is the first UK major airport to successfully incorporate sustainable aviation fuels into its operation. As we get ready to welcome the world to the G7, we can demonstrate how this technology can significantly cut carbon from aviation, whilst protecting its benefits. The UK Government now has an opportunity to create a new British growth industry by backing sustainable aviation fuel production and also be leaders in the race to a net zero 2050. Now is the time for less talk and more action and Ministers should set an escalating mandate to blend SAF into fuel and incentives stable over 5-10 years to foster investment in production, with a target of 10 per cent by 2030 and at least 50 per cent by 2050.”

    Vitol Aviation, Leticia Hachuel said: “Sustainability has always been important to us as a supplier and to airlines and their passengers. We are delighted to be the first to deliver sustainable aviation fuel to Heathrow. Whilst this is proof of concept, for the need to realise lower-emission options for flying is critical and we are looking at how we can use our expertise to offer more sustainable options.”

    Renewable Aviation at Neste Vice President Europe, Jonathan Wood said: “We are continuously supporting the aviation industry in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are pleased that Vitol are enabling Neste MY SAF to be used at Heathrow, one of the leading global hub airports. We are also proud to play a role in lower-emission travel to the G7 conference, where sustainability will be one of the key topics.”