Investing now in an alternative aviation fuel for a sustainable industry

By Geneviève Cournoyer-Scalise January 14 2021

Did you know that a brand-new program has been created for shippers and freight forwarders who want to supply part of their cargo flights with alternative fuel? A sustainable solution for the aviation industry. An interesting avenue for customers looking to go green and achieve carbon neutrality.

The Air France-KLM & Martinair Cargo initiative aims to reduce CO2 emissions and limit our overall ecological footprint in order to ensure a sustainable and environmentally responsible future for the airline industry. The Cargo Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) program offered by the European group allows its customers to choose their level of engagement to the use of an alternative fuel on board their aircraft dedicated to freight transport.

The aviation sector accounts for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, but its overall contribution to global warming is higher, at 3.5%.1 The purchase of SAF reduces CO2 emissions by up to 85% compared to conventional air fuel. This number considers the entire lifecycle of the production and use of sustainable aviation fuel compared to fossil fuel.

As a greener substitute, this type of fuel is currently the only viable alternative to the actual fossil fuel needed to power commercial aircraft. In fact, SAF is a substitution fuel. Its chemical and physical characteristics are similar to those of kerosene, so the two fuels are easily mixable at different temperature levels. Thus, a nearly 50/50 formula reduces the amount of regular fuel used, which is much more polluting. Despite the exchange for an alternative fuel, quality and safety standards are met on all levels and performance is not affected. No mechanical modification is required on board aircraft or at airport facilities to use this alternative fuel, which makes it easier to adopt.

By inviting its customers to invest in the SAF program, the Franco-German airline is committed to ensuring that the entire amount invested will be used for the supply of alternative fuel. To be fully transparent, all customers involved in the project will receive “a third-party audited report justifying the purchased amount of SAF linked to the traffic volume and indicating the achieved reduction in CO2 making air transport more sustainable,” announced the airline on their website.2 Obviously, by combining the strength of numbers and their portfolio, the Air France-KLM & Martinair Cargo group is ensuring that they can increase their purchasing power in this very small market.

Unlike regular fuel, SAF is made from recyclable raw materials rather than fossil matter. For instance, vegetable oils, waste oils, used cooking oil or fats are deoxygenated and then hydroprocessed to produce a pure hydrocarbon fuel blending component.3 Very few factories produce this type of fuel today, which explains its limited stock and its high price, even two to three times more expensive than regular fuel. As a solution, KLM and its partners have teamed up to build a factory dedicated solely to the production of SAF to meet their operational needs. This first plant, scheduled to open in the north of the Netherlands in 2023, already expects production to be 10 times greater than the total volume of sustainable aviation fuel currently available on the market. Other facilities will also be established in France in the years to come, according to the long-term plan.

The first phase towards decarbonization is officially launched for the Air France-KLM & Martinair Cargo group. Technology is evolving rapidly, of course, but solar planes are not coming tomorrow and batteries are far too heavy to provide long air travel, at least for now. While waiting for the next advances that technology has in store for us, a program like SAF makes perfect sense. If the airline industry wants to achieve its CO2 reduction target in the coming years, it will need to be creative to ensure its growth in a carbon-neutral manner.

Want to learn more about the SAF program and its benefits? Here is a short video produced by the Air France-KLM & Martinair Cargo group.

Globally, several countries have already announced their desire to free themselves from their dependence on fossil fuels within the next 30 years, meaning carbon neutrality issues are hot topics in the transport and logistics sector.

As a member of the Clasquin group, Cargolution will soon present you some new interactive tools that will be available through its Live platform to quantify your ecological footprint and to measure the CO2 emissions associated with the transportation of your goods.

The time has come to mobilize collectively to find common, accessible, and sustainable solutions for our whole industry. What do you think?

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