The European Union will force airlines to reduce their polluting emissions and to use a specific percentage of sustainable fuel (SAF) within the ReFuelEU Aviation strategy, to deploy progressively between 2025 and 2050. But the production of this is still scarce and expensive, and its use today, anecdotal. That is why some airlines are making a move to boost access to fuel. This is the case of Vueling, from the IAG group, which on Tuesday requested the involvement of the public sector to produce SAF in Catalonia.
In an act organized at the headquarters of the Foment del Treball employers' association, the president of Vueling, Marco Sansavini, has appealed to the Generalitat to facilitate the creation of sustainable fuel plants in the territory, both through public financing through the use of European funds as well as a regulatory framework that helps energy companies to start up. The airline has even offered to co-finance the manufacture of SAF in Catalonia, as its parent company has already done in other parts of the world. IAG has invested to date more than 800 million euros in the purchase and production of sustainable fuel in the United States and the United Kingdom, countries that lead the way in this sector. Members of the Government, political parties and employers' associations and business associations attended the presentation.
"At the moment it is a scarce and very expensive fuel" and it only represents 0.05% of the total fuel consumption in aviation, Sansavini highlighted. Its cost is between three and five times higher than kerosene. “The great challenge is to produce more and I decided if the manufacture of this fuel is going to be here or in other countries and we will have to import it”, he added.
For the company and for the general secretary of Foment, David Tornos, the SAF represents a "great opportunity" in the industrial development of Catalonia. In a study carried out together with PwC, they estimate that the territory has the capacity to house some four SAF plants that could begin to be built as of 2025 and start the production of sustainable fuel in 2030 if the necessary conditions are met. According to his calculations, the SAF industry could generate more than 10,600 million euros in the GDP of Catalonia and more than 41,600 direct jobs. But its construction is expensive, around one billion euros per plant depending on its production capacity. Hence, they consider that energy companies need incentives and help to build them.
Aviation is responsible for around 3% of global CO2 emissions and the use of SAF allows companies to reduce between 80% and 100% of polluting gases, taking into account both production and consumption. There are two types of SAF, organic, produced from vegetable oils, animal fats, biomass or other waste such as agricultural waste, and synthetic, generated from the capture of carbon dioxide through the use of green hydrogen.
For companies, it has the advantage that it can be used immediately and does not require changing current aircraft.
The calendar initially set by Europe establishes the use of a minimum of 2% green fuels in 2025, 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 34% in 2040, 42% in 2045 and 70% in 2050. In addition, from 2030, a specific proportion of the fuel mix must contain a minimum percentage of synthetic fuels such as e-kerosene, which will go from 1.2% in 2030 to 2% in 2032, 5% in 2035 and so on until reaching 35% in 2050.