Fri 21 Sept 2018 – A delivery flight yesterday of an Airbus A321 from the Airbus A320 Family production facility in Mobile, Alabama, to customer JetBlue marked the first-ever use of renewable jet fuel by the New York-based carrier. Both the pre-delivery acceptance test flight and the JetBlue scheduled ferry flight were powered by a blend of fuel consisting of 15.5% renewable jet fuel provided by Airbus and supplied and certified by Air BP. An additional four new Airbus A321 aircraft that are due to be delivered to JetBlue by the end of 2018 will also use the fuel. Since 2016, Airbus has offered customers the option of biofuel-powered delivery flights from its main base in Toulouse through a partnership with Total, with Cathay Pacific taking up the option for new Airbus A350 deliveries to Hong Kong. Airbus says it intends offering the option to other airlines taking deliveries from its Mobile facility.
“Our goal is to source sustainable fuels in the southeastern United States,” said Frédéric Eychenne, Head of New Energies at Airbus. “It is an opportunity to work closely with local stakeholders to scale-up production and the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels in the region. We are actively seeking ideas to leverage Airbus’ strategy into opportunities for new economic development in Alabama.”
An Airbus spokesperson added: “Airbus wants to be a catalyst for stimulating demand for the aviation sector, creating market conditions in the southeast of the United States that allow producers to sell sustainable fuels within the region. We see a win-win situation in which Airbus can meet its customers’ need for making aircraft delivery flights from Mobile with sustainable fuel by sourcing these fuels locally, and creating high-value infrastructure, jobs and apprenticeship opportunities in the process.”
As locally produced sustainable jet fuel is not yet commercially available in the region, Airbus and Air BP sourced the renewable fuel – produced from used cooking oil – for this week’s and subsequent JetBlue delivery flights from a storage facility in Sweden.
“We are working closely with airlines and aircraft manufacturers, such as Airbus, to drive change by promoting and securing the supply of sustainable alternative jet fuel,” said Air BP’s Chief Commercial Officer, Matt Elliott.
The fuel for the JetBlue delivery flights is being loaded into the aircraft by Signature Flight Support, which provides refuelling services for Airbus in Mobile. It is also collaborating with Air BP to offer business jet customers what they describe as carbon neutral fuel by offsetting the emissions through the BP Target Neutral programme.
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said a sustainable future for aviation would require cooperation among all parts of the industry. “Renewable jet fuel affirms JetBlue’s belief that we can help define our industry’s future path. Our goal is to serve as a market-maker for renewable jet fuel, creating demand and therefore supporting supply. We’re working closely with Airbus to set up infrastructure for more options in the southeast region.”
In 2016, the airline announced what it claimed to be one of the largest ever renewable jet fuel offtake agreements with Philadelphia-based SG Preston (see article). JetBlue plans to purchase more than 33 million gallons of blended jet fuel per year over a 10-year period. The blend is to be made up of 30% HEFA-derived renewable fuel produced from sustainable non-food plant oils that are expected to achieve a 50% or higher reduction in life-cycle emissions compared to the fossil equivalent. SG Preston is looking to build five plants initially, each producing 120 million gallons of renewable fuel per year.
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