US airlines join partnership on sustainable aviation fuel

Jaromir Chalabala /

US airlines have joined a partner of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), part of efforts to boost production and take-up of the fuels.

Amazon Air, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue (JBLU), and United Airlines are the founding members of the new Aviators Group at the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA). The move was announced on November 10, 2021 at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow. 

Many airlines are turning to the use of SAF to partly power flights as a way of reducing harmful CO2 emissions against the backdrop of increasing efforts to tackle climate change. 

However, SAF is expensive and only available in limited quantities. 

“Sustainable aviation fuels are critical to decarbonizing aviation and to Alaska’s path to reach net zero by 2040,” said Ben Minicucci, CEO of Alaska Airlines in a press release. “But production and supply are not yet where our industry needs them to be. That’s why it’s critical we work together to build a robust market for SAF.”

Global aviation accounts for around 3% of CO2 emissions and that figure is expected to rise as travel demand grows. SAF currently represents less than 0.1% of global aviation fuel, due to insufficient demand and cost barriers, SABA noted.  

“The new Aviators Group enables SABA to send an even stronger demand signal to drive greater SAF production, price reduction and technological innovation,” SABA said. 

SABA, an initiative of non-profit organizations RMI and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was launched in April 2021 to bring together aviation customers committed to reducing their air transport emissions through investment in high-integrity SAF.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted that SAF production will reach 7.9 billion liters in 2025, equivalent to just 2% of the airline industry’s total fuel requirement. 


Meanwhile, IAG, the owner of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, also announced on November 10, 2021 that it had signed an MoU agreement with Velocys, the sustainable fuels technology company, to acquire 220,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) over 10 years. 

Overall, IAG plans to purchase one million tonnes of sustainable jet fuel per year, which it said will help it to reduce its annual emissions by two million tonnes by 2030.

“IAG is investing $400 million in the development of sustainable aviation fuel in the next 20 years,” IAG chief executive Luis Gallego said. “This new agreement is another important step towards achieving our goal of 10 per cent sustainable aviation fuel use by 2030.”

The MoU with Velocys will see IAG purchase one third of the planned output of Velocys’ new Bayou Fuels project in the US, when it begins delivery in 2026.

Gallego added: “Sustainable aviation fuel is a critical element for the decarbonisation of the aviation industry. Clear policy support is needed to attract investment to construct the necessary plants to deliver enough supply for the airline industry.” 

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