Qantas and Airbus to fund biofuel refinery to reduce emissions

Image credit: reuters

Qantas Airways and Airbus will invest $2m (£1.6m) in a Queensland biofuel production facility as part of efforts to increase the proportion of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) used in their aircraft.

SAFs are typically derived by combining jet fuel with alternatives such as biofuels or recycled oils from industrial food facilities to cut the carbon impact of flying.

The money for the new project will be used to conduct a detailed feasibility study into a facility that will use alcohol-to-jet technology to produce up to 100 million litres of SAF per year.

Qantas and Airbus have previously committed to investing up to $200m to accelerate the establishment of a SAF industry in Australia. Construction on the facility is expected to begin in 2024 and it will be the first project funded under the partnership.

Qantas Group chief sustainability officer Andrew Parker said the early project funding was an important first step towards building a domestic SAF industry, which will power flights around Australia.

“Qantas will be the largest single customer for Australian-made SAF to meet our emissions reduction targets, which is why we’re investing in the ideas and technology that will build a local SAF industry,” he said.

“This is one of several projects that we are looking to fund this year, all of which will help accelerate the decarbonisation of the aviation industry.”

Sustainable fuels are one of the most significant tools that airlines can use to reduce their emissions in the short term as they can be used in today’s engines and fuel delivery infrastructure with no modifications.

In the future, it is hoped that planes powered electrically or with hydrogen will provide truly carbon-neutral flight.

Airbus sustainability VP Julie Kitcher said that all Airbus aircraft are already capable of flying with a SAF blend of up to 50 per cent.

“There is a growing positive momentum around SAF, and it is now time to move from commitments to concrete actions,” she said.

“The selection of the first investment under our joint partnership with Qantas is an example of such action, with the potential to deliver SAF locally in Australia and to be a model for other locations around the world.”

The Qantas Group is currently purchasing SAF sourced overseas, including 10 million litres for flights out of London in 2023, and from 2025, 20 million litres per year for flights out of California.

Domestically produced SAF will be a key part of Qantas reaching its commitment to use 10 per cent SAF in its overall fuel mix by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the firm said.

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