Qantas aircraft departing Los Angeles will use biofuel produced from sustainable plant oils from 2020 as the carrier moves to reduce its carbon footprint.
The Australian airline will use a 50 per cent biofuel blend on flights between LA and Australia as part of an agreement with US bioenegery company SG Preston to buy eight million gallons (30m litres) or renewable jet fuel annually over 10 years. The airline estimates the deal will save 190,000 tonnes of CO2 over 10 years.
It has the option to negotiate further supply with SG Preston at LAX and other US ports, subject to availability. The airline also flies to New York and is expected to announce other US destinations as it modernises its fleet with new, more fuel-efficient aircraft.
The airline said eight million gallons represented about 10 per cent of the current annual fuel used by its aircraft departing Los Angeles International Airport.
The fuel is made from sustainable non-food plant oils and the 50 per cent blend is expected to produce half the amount of carbon dioxide over its lifecycle when compared to standard jet fuel.
Qantas first trialled biofuels on domestic Airbus A330 and A320 flights in 2012. In that case, the fuel was derived from cooking oil and used in a 50/50 blend.
Biofuels meet the same technical requirement as traditional jet fuel and tend to be better in areas such as sulphur content. They are seen as imperative to long-term industry plans to carbon-neutral growth and a reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions, relative to 2005 levels, of 50 per cent by 2050.
Qantas chief executive international and freight Gareth Evans said the commercial biofuel offtake agreement was the first of its kind for Australian aviation.
“As an airline group we are constantly looking for ways to become more fuel efficient and embrace new technologies and this partnership is a significant step on that journey,’’ Evans said in a statement.
“Our agreement with SG Preston allows us to secure a supply for our Los Angeles based aircraft where we have a large fuel demand and where the biofuel industry is more advanced.
“Through our biofuel program we are also exploring renewable jet fuel opportunities in Australia and continue to work with suppliers to develop locally produced biofuels for aviation use.”
SG Preston’s chief Randy Delbert LeTang applauded Qantas for “showing great leadership in its commitment to biofuels”.
The energy company recently announced a similar 10-year offtake agreement with US carrier JetBlue using Its hydro-processed esters and fatty acids(HEFA) -based renewable jet fuel. JetBLue will launch its biofuels program using a 30-70 blend to power aircraft using its New York airports..
International Air Transport Association environment director Michael Gill said these kinds of deals were critical to the global development of aviation biofuel sector.
The Qantas announcement came as Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti last week has called for a long-term and coordinated approach to the development of an biojet industry in Australia.
Virgin announced it would work with another US renewable fuel supplier, Gevo, to introduce sustainable aviation fuels at Brisbane Airport.