The past year has not only seen a strong increase in Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) awareness, but also in SAF production plans and uptake agreements. As the European Commission is gearing up to publish the ReFuelEU policy, strong SAF mandates are expected for the entire EU aviation sector. Market stakeholders, both airlines and fuel providers, are also pushing forward with new SAF purchase agreements arising every few days.
SAF for Airports
In this market environment, it is clear that airports need to act now to be ready for SAF, as shown by a recent paper from ACI/ATI on integration of SAF at Airports. Many Airports want to become involved in the SAF value chain, but do not know how as they do not purchase or sell fuel and most have sub-contracted their refueling infrastructure and operations. As part of the STARGATE EU Green Deal project, To70 and the University of Hasselt are researching opportunities and challenges airports may face when supporting SAF development. In this blog, we share some initial insights regarding four distinct ways in which airports can provide support for SAF uptake.
Direct funding mechanisms
Airports currently charge airlines for the use of their infrastructures and services. These airport charges are based on multiple variables, including size, number of passengers, etc. A key mechanism to support airlines in refueling with SAF, is by supporting airlines in purchasing SAF financially. Leading airports, including Schiphol airport, Swedavia, and Heathrow have started SAF-funds/incentives that airlines can apply to when they refuel SAF at these airports.
Airports can also provide or support research that provides clear information on SAF, both to the general public, as well as to the sector. By creating awareness amongst consumers, airports can incentivize them to buy SAF. Sector stakeholders such as smaller airlines and fuel suppliers must be informed on the different developments, so they can also be part of the transition. Leading airports have contributed to the ACI/ATI report on SAF integration as previously mentioned. Some airports are providing information on SAF on their websites, including Rotterdam the Hague Airport, and Seattle Airport.
Investing in SAF value chain
The SAF value chain starts with the procurement of feedstocks and the production of sustainable fuels upstream. Currently, there are 9 pathways to produce SAF, ranging from biofuels to synthetic fuels. Beyond the production, sustainable aviation fuels also need to be blended with Jet A(1) fuel in order to be certified, and transported to the airport. Airports can get involved in these earlier stages of the value chain through investment, but also by creating trust within the sector in order to increase the confidence that SAF producers’ investments will be earned back as airlines offtake SAF in the future, and hence decreasing risks. Within the STARGATE project, research is being done on on-site blending at Brussels Airport, as well as on developing future business models for airports to incorporate SAF. A number of airports have also invested in SAF production, including Luxembourg airport’s recent investment in Norsk E-fuel.
Support safe refueling logistics
Finally, airports can also get more involved in the supply chain at the airport itself. By ensuring that the airport has sufficient SAF and can handle the safe and efficient refueling of SAF, airports facilitate SAF uptake for the entire sector. At Schiphol Airport for example, Neste as the SAF fuel supplier has acquired a part of AFS, the fuel distributer at the airport. This was facilitated by the airport to ensure that there is sufficient SAF available.
This blog was written in collaboration with Elisabeth Woeldgen, PhD at University of Hasselt.
*This blog is based on preliminary and internal analysis, and does not represent final outcomes of any kind.