Qantas, Airbus to establish sustainable aviation fuels industry

Qantas Airbus A380 in sky after take-off

The Qantas Group and Airbus will invest up to US$200 million to accelerate the establishment of a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in Australia in a landmark agreement. 

The Australian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Partnership was signed in Doha today by Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce and Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury ahead of the IATA AGM. 

Due to the lack of a local commercial-scale SAF industry, Australia is currently exporting millions of tonnes of feedstock every year, such as canola and animal tallow to be made into sustainable aviation fuel in other countries. 

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The Qantas Group, which has committed to using 10 per cent SAF in its overall fuel mix by 2030, is sourcing sustainable aviation fuel overseas, including 15 percent of its fuel use out of London currently and 20 million litres each year for flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Australia from 2025.

Sustainable fuels cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 80 per cent compared to traditional kerosene and are the most significant tool airlines currently have to reduce their impact on the environment—particularly given they can be used in today’s engines with no modifications. 

The Qantas and Airbus partnership will provide funding for locally developed and produced sustainable aviation fuel and feedstock initiatives. Projects will have to be commercially viable and meet a strict set of criteria around environmental sustainability. 

Airbus and Qantas agreed to work together on the sustainability initiative part of the airline’s recently announced orders. These include the A350-1000 to operate ‘Project Sunrise’ non-stop flights from Australia to New York and London and the selection of the A220 and A321XLR under the carrier’s ‘Project Winton’ domestic fleet renewal, as well as lower emission aircraft for its subsidiary Jetstar. 

The new fleet will offer a significant reduction in fuel consumption and carbon emissions of up to 25 per cent from day one and are all already certified for operation using 50% SAF.

The partnership is initially for five years with options to extend the duration. Qantas’ financial contribution to the Australian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Partnership includes AU$50 million previously committed to research and development of SAF in Australia.

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Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said, “Ensuring a sustainable future for our industry has become the priority for Airbus and we are taking up this challenge with partners across the world and from across all sectors.”

“The increased use of sustainable aviation fuels will be a key driver to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. But we can’t do this without viable industrial systems to produce and commercialise these energy sources at affordable rates and near to key hubs around the world. This is especially true for a country like Australia, which is geographically distant and highly reliant on aviation to remain connected both domestically and internationally.”

“The agreement we are signing with Qantas reflects the new level of partnership between our two companies and our firmly shared commitment to act as catalysts of change to ensure a bright future for our industry.”

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