Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Action What are Sustainable Aviation Fuels ?
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) are set to become the main lever for decarbonising air transport in the coming years. Produced from non-fossil fuel sources, they reduce CO₂ emissions by 80% on average over the fuel's life cycle. They can be used today without any modification to aircraft and flight operations and are gradually replacing traditional fuel.
These new fuels are of two types:
- 2nd generation biofuels, produced from biomass - in particular used oil or agricultural waste, which do not compete with food crops - available now
- synthetic fuels - also called "power-to-liquid" or "e-fuels" produced from CO₂ captured in the atmosphere and hydrogen present in water - currently in the research and development phase
Emission reductions enabled by SAF
SAFs emit the same amount of CO₂ during flight as kerosene. The reduction in emissions is achieved in the upstream phase, i.e., during the SAF production process. Take the example of SAF from used cooking oils: these oils are originally produced from plants, which absorb CO₂ from the atmosphere through photosynthesis as they grow. These oils are used and then recycled to make SAF. By deducting the CO₂ absorbed by the plants from the CO₂ emissions generated by SAF, its overall carbon footprint is on average 80% lower than that of kerosene. This is known as life cycle carbon footprint analysis, taking into account all the activities involved in the manufacture, use, transport and recycling or disposal of a product.
A decisive lever for decarbonisation
Air France sees these sustainable aviation fuels as a decisive lever for decarbonising air transport and has been a pioneer in their use since 2011.
The production of these fuels is currently very limited due to the lack of a sufficiently developed industrial sector, and their price is 4 to 8 times higher than that of fossil fuel. This is why Air France is working alongside its industrial and academic partners to ensure the rapid emergence of production facilities.
The gradual incorporation of SAF has a dual objective: to contribute to the decarbonisation of our operations, and to meet the growing demand from our customers, as purchasing SAF enables them to reduce the carbon footprint of their trips. As of 2022, all flights departing from France will incorporate on average the equivalent of 1% of sustainable aviation fuel. By 2030, we aim to incorporate at least 10% of this fuel on all our flights, to achieve 63% in 2050. In this way, we support the SAF incorporation objectives of French and European roadmaps, whilst at the same time aiming to exceed them.
In November 2022, Air France-KLM took an important first step by signing the first supply contracts with Nesté and DG Fuels for the delivery of 1.6 million tons of sustainable aviation fuels between 2023 and 2036, and then by signing a memorandum of understanding with Totalenergies for the delivery of 800,000 tons of SAF between 2023 and 2030. By committing to purchasing sustainable aviation fuels now, Air France-KLM is supporting the development of production channels.
By increasing demand, Air France-KLM intends to play a role in the development of the production chains needed to enable widespread adoption of SAF by 2030.