US airlines aim to keep it clean during COVID-19

The U.S. airline industry, although mostly grounded by coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions, continues to press forward with investments to develop biofuels to reduce aircraft emissions.

“We remain committed to achieving our aggressive climate and sustainability goals,” said Nancy Young, vice president of environmental affairs for Airlines for America (A4A), in a statement on Wednesday. “The increased production and use of sustainable fuels is a key pillar of our efforts.”

The Washington, D.C.-based trade association’s airline members include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and UPS. Air Canada is an associate member.

A4A praised ASTM International’s seventh annex for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), D7566, which it says will increase the use of these cleaner-burning fuels by U.S. airlines. ASTM, which is one of the largest standards development organizations, recently approved and published the new annex to D7566 with support from the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, which was co-founded by A4A in 2006.

Annex A7 establishes criteria for the production and use of a new type of synthesized paraffinic kerosene derived from hydrocarbons, esters and fatty acids (HC-HEFA-SPK). The fuel was developed by Tokyo-based jet engine manufacturer IHI Corp. and may now be blended up to 10% by volume with conventional jet fuel.

A4A said this new “fuel pathway” is also the first to process through ASTM’s “fast track” review process, which benefits from guidance from a special U.S. Federal Aviation Administration clearinghouse.

“Although the U.S. airlines represent only 2% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, we are committed to continuing to reduce that carbon footprint,” Young said. “Advancing the commercialization and deployment of SAF will help the aviation industry meet its emission reduction goals, while diversifying fuel supply and enhancing energy security.”

According to the International Air Transport Association, test flights by numerous airlines since 2008 have proven that biofuel blends are safe and at least as efficient as conventional jet fuel. More airlines continue to explore ways to use biofuel blends to reduce their aircraft emissions.

In January, Delta said it is working with Northwest Advance Bio Fuels this year to determine the possibility for a facility in Washington state to supply sustainable aviation fuel to its operations in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles by late 2024.