June 22, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

The Australian airline has partnered with the manufacturer of its renewed aircraft fleet to offer up to $200 million to incentivise the development of a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in Australia.

Sustainable aviation fuel is made from sustainable feedstock like used cooking oil, animal fat, council waste, then mixed up to a fifty-fifty ratio with conventional jet fuel to produce up to 80 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to using conventional jet fuel in displaces.

With SAF the most significant tool airlines have to immediately reduce their carbon emissions – aircraft in use today require no modifications to fly with SAF as part of their fuel mix – the development of an industry that can produce SAF in Australia will also have a significant impact on reducing the carbon footprint of business events, taking in organiser, supplier and delegate transportation and the movement of goods and materials used to create event experiences.

Qantas is already using SAF in flights out of London and will also start to use it on flights out of some west coast US cities from 2025. However, as Australia currently lacks the infrastructure to produce SAF at scale, millions of tonnes of feedstock used to make the fuel are currently being transported overseas to be converted into and used as SAF in other countries, while Australian airlines continue to fly domestically and outbound using the higher polluting pure conventional jet fuel.

The $200 million Australian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Partnership will be used to invest in local SAF production initiatives as well as supporting those ensuring feedstock supply.

“The use of SAF is increasing globally as governments and industry work together to find ways to decarbonise the aviation sector. Without swift action, Australia is at risk of being left behind,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

“With this investment, Qantas and Airbus are putting our money where our mouth is and betting on the innovation and ingenuity of Australian industry.

“Aviation is an irreplaceable industry, especially for a country the size of Australia, and one that’s located so far away from so much of the world.

“This investment will help kickstart a local biofuels industry in Australia and hopefully encourage additional investment from governments and other business and build more momentum for the industry as a whole.

“It makes a lot of sense for us to put equity into an industry that we will be the biggest customer of.

“We’re calling on other companies and producers to come forward with their biofuel projects. In many cases, this funding will be the difference between some of these projects getting off the ground,” said Joyce.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said ensuring the aviation industry was sustainable was a priority for the manufacturer.

“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,” said Faury.

The $200 million includes the $50 million Qantas had already put on the line to encourage SAF development in Australia.

The Australian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Partnership will last an initial five years, with options to extend the program.

After becoming the second airline in the world to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Qantas has set an interim carbon emissions reduction target of 25 per cent by 2030. As part of its net zero goal, the airline expects to be using 10 per cent SAF fuel by 2030 and 60 per cent by 2050.

Qantas’ renewed fleet of Airbus aircraft will deliver a 15 per cent reduction in carbon emissions on fossil fuels alone – with SAF in the mix, the reduction would be significantly larger.