SAS signs SAF deal with Gevo, unveils new sustainable onboard food packaging and tops Heathrow noise and emissions league
Fri 22 Nov 2019 – US renewable fuels manufacturer Gevo has signed a sales agreement with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) to produce and supply sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to the carrier for use and distribution in low-carbon regions of the United States. Details of the contract have not been released but Gevo said it will supply the SAF to SAS from its expanded Luverne, Minnesota plant, which is expected to be constructed over the next several years. SAS has also announced it is relaunching its onboard food packaging and cutlery with a new design and more sustainable materials that will save up to 51 tons of plastics per year. The airline has also been ranked as the best airline based on noise and emissions performance at Heathrow Airport over the last quarter as a result of the introduction of Airbus A320neo aircraft and better track-keeping and continuous descent approach operations.
Gevo is currently producing limited quantities of alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel through isobutanol to hydrocarbons conversion technology at its demonstration-size plant in Silsbee, Texas. In 2016, the technology was used to convert cellulosic sugars derived from wood waste into isobutanol before further conversion into renewable jet fuel supplied to Alaska Airlines. This followed ASTM approval for ATJ synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) in blends up to a maximum of 30%. In 2018, Gevo took part in a trial with Virgin Australia to supply aircraft with blended SAF through Brisbane Airport’s general fuel supply system. Last month, Gevo provided global fuel supplier Avfuel with SAF to fuel business aircraft operators headed for an aviation trade show in Las Vegas.
Created from corn starch, for every gallon of concentrated SAF produced, around 10 pounds (4.5kgs) of animal feed and protein is sold into the food chain and can sequester up to 2 pounds of CO2 as carbon into the soil, says Gevo.
The Colorado-based company claims this makes it one of the only renewable jet producers to produce both food and fuel, while sequestering CO2 and lowering GHG emissions as compared to traditional fossil-based jet fuel. It adds it will be more transparent with its sustainability practices by utilising blockchain technology to track its sustainable agriculture efforts.
The Luverne facility currently produces around 1.5 million gallons of isobutanol per year. When the expansion is completed, it is expected to produce up to 18 million gallons of isobutanol and 10 million gallons of jet fuel annually.
“SAS is a pioneer in the use of SAF, such as launching a new ancillary product that gives travellers the option to reduce their climate impact through the purchase of biofuel when booking a ticket, or at any time before departure. This agreement is another step in that innovative approach to sustainability,” commented Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber. “SAS is a leader in their commitment to SAF and we are happy to partner with them as we continue our crusade to lower the carbon intensity of aviation fuels.”
The new packaging of the SAS cube food concept is another step towards a goal of having 100% sustainable materials in its customer offering by no later than 2030, says the airline.
Some form of plastic is often necessary due to food safety requirements and so SAS suppliers have come up with a solution that replaces the inside plastic container of the cube with a paper one. It is made of FSC-approved paper with a plastic coating made from organic plant-based plastic instead of oil-based plastic.
The cutlery kit in the cube has also been changed and is now adapted to each meal in order to minimise use of resources, so that each piece of cutlery is offered only if needed. The plant-based plastic used in the cutlery is made from vegetable oil, which is processed by natural fermentation and micro-organisms into a raw material that is compostable. SAS claims it is the first to present this solution for single-use cutlery and is the only one compliant with the EU Single-Use Plastics directive. The kit will be launched gradually starting next month and is expected to be found in every cube by May 2020.
“The New Nordic by SAS food concept served in the cube is an excellent example of how we align our onboard services with our sustainability goals,” said Karl Sandlund, SAS EVP & Chief Commercial Officer. “It is one of many steps towards a more sustainable aviation sector – the most significant actions being the renewal of our fleet, increasing biofuel use and supporting the development of electric aircraft.”
Heathrow’s latest quarterly ‘Fly Quiet and Green’ league table shows SAS has taken the top spot for the second time this year by introducing more A320neo aircraft, with the type now accounting for 80% of all of the airline’s movements at the airport. They are 15% more fuel efficient than today’s comparable models and less noisy – the 85 decibel maximum noise-level contour of a starting A320neo is around 50% lower than that of the current A320.
SAS has also improved its track-keeping – sticking to designated flight paths more closely to give communities more predictable respite – and its pilots are using quieter approaching techniques when descending into the UK’s hub airport.
“SAS wants to be at the forefront of the journey towards sustainable aviation and it is encouraging that we are recognised as the most environmentally-friendly airline out of Heathrow,” said Lars Andersen Resare, Head of Sustainability at SAS. “SAS is committed to reducing its emissions by 25% by 2030 and is continuously developing more sustainable products and services across the business. By introducing new Airbus neos to our fleet, we have been able to reduce emissions and noise levels further than ever before.”