In 2018, global commercial aircraft operations were responsible for 2,4% of all CO2 emissions worldwide. In fact, according to WWF, if the airline industry were a country, it would be in the top ten most polluting nations. With those numbers, it comes as no surprise that airline companies are looking for ways to diminish their ecological footprint – often driven by both their own ecological conscience and that of the public. In recent years, great progress has already been made when it comes to making aircrafts less polluting: CO2 emissions per Revenue Ton-kilometer (RTK) in 2018 were 47% of those in 1990.
Yet that doesn’t mean it has to stop here. With all the technological progress we’re experiencing in our society, the aviation industry can’t be left behind. Especially since the volume of air travel keeps increasing. According to scientific findings, in 2020, aviation emissions were 70% higher than they were in 2005. And by 2050, they could even grow by 300%. It’s time to find a way to pollute less but maybe the answer is already here.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) could well be the answer to a lot, if not all of our aviation industry pollution problems. Contrary to regular fossil jet fuels, Sustainable Aviation Fuel isn’t made out of petroleum. Instead, it’s derived from more sustainable sources such as waste oils from biological origin, agri residues and non-fossil CO2. According to Neste, SAF could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to normal fossil jet fuels. A big drop and a necessary one, if we remember the numbers mentioned above.
SAF represents the greatest opportunity to decarbonize aviation in the short to medium term. This supply is the beginning of commercial SAF at scale for Virgin Atlantic and whilst only enough to operate 140 flights between London and New York, it’s a starting point.Holly Boyd-Boland, VP Corporate Development at Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic and SAF
Airline companies know this too and that is why Virgin Atlantic has just made a 2.5 million liters SAF-deal with Neste. The fuel will be delivered to London Heathrow by ExxonMobil in the first half of 2022 and it brings the company a bit closer to its sustainable fuel target. The company is aiming to be net zero by 2050 and has already delivered a 20% reduction in carbon emissions between 2007 and 2019. This drop in emissions was achieved by making its whole fleet twin engine aircrafts, from which 70% are next generation.
“After fleet renewal, SAF represents the greatest opportunity to decarbonize aviation in the short to medium term. This supply is the beginning of commercial SAF at scale for Virgin Atlantic and whilst only enough to operate 140 flights between London and New York, it’s a starting point. To meet our 10% SAF target in 2030 we need to deliver this volume more than 70 times over, requiring cross industry and Government action to support commercialization of SAF at scale, particularly in the UK. We will continue to work closely with Neste and ExxonMobil, as well as wider industry partners, to find innovative solutions to achieve this goal”, declared Holly Boyd-Boland, VP Corporate Development at Virgin Atlantic.