Airplanes at the tarmac

How can aviation decarbonise?

Aviation is considered a hard-to-abate sector due to long lifespan of the airplanes and cost of the solutions. Despite the challenges, there is a strong need to focus on how-to-abate the emissions from flying.

Shell believes that the aviation industry can and needs to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but this will only be possible with a sectoral approach - where governments, business and civil society work together to achieve real and meaningful progress. This approach means airlines, engine and airplane manufacturers, airports, governments, financial community, and those who benefit from flying - supply and demand - working together.

The sector collaboration alongside policy framework will enable the various solutions needed at different stages of the journey to net zero flight. This means that individual initiatives should be integrated into comprehensive plans representing all points along the value chain – from energy producers to end-customers.

The industry has made progress improving operational efficiencies to reduce fuel consumption. The sector must work to continue improvements in aircraft and operational efficiency, and as the sector grows more is needed to meet the decarbonisation goals.

In the future, new technologies such as electric aircraft and hydrogen-fuelled aircraft have the potential for certain applications and uses. These technologies offer the possibility of zero‐emission flying but changing to them will be much harder than switching from kerosene to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). By starting to develop alternative propulsion technologies now, they could become viable for some applications by the late 2040s and 2050s.

According to our joint industry study with Deloitte, where we asked over 100 industry representatives, the industry considers SAF as the only viable solution that can be implemented at scale before 2050. However, in 2019, fewer than 200,000 metric tonnes of SAF were produced globally, which was less than 0.1% of jet fuel used by commercial airlines.

The industry will have a growing requirement for SAF and need to deploy high-quality carbon credits at scale alongside this fuel to counteract the rise in emissions from increased traffic. Carbon offsetting will be particularly important during the time it takes to fully develop other ways to decarbonise the sector.

How aviation can move towards decarbonisation in the short term: an industry view
Shell Aviation staff refuelling an airplane

What is SAF?

Sustainable aviation fuel or SAF is an alternative fuel that can help to significantly reduce emissions from flying. SAF comes in a variety of forms, the large majority of which have lower life‐cycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fossil fuels. Compared with conventional jet fuel derived from fossil fuels, when used neat, SAF has the potential to cut life-cycle emissions from aviation by up to 80%. All forms of SAF have the further advantage of being drop‐in fuels, meaning they can be used without the need for major changes to aircraft design or supporting airport infrastructure.

Today SAF can be made from plant or animal material, using a pathway called HEFA. There are multiple SAF technologies at various stages of maturity, the speed of change that is necessary to achieve decarbonisation goals means that we must deploy existing technologies, like HEFA, while developing future ones. Shell is committed to developing more technologies to produce sustainable aviation fuels. Research and development are underway to find ways to produce industrial quantities of SAF synthetically, using hydrogen obtained from low-carbon sources and carbon dioxide captured from other industrial processes or the air. For now, SAF is blended with conventional fuels. Shell and Rolls-Royce are working together on demonstrating the use of 100% SAF and exploring opportunities to help progress the use of 100% SAF towards certification.

There are still many challenges before SAF can be deployed at the scale needed. They include the need for greater availability of raw materials, better supply infrastructure and clearer policy to encourage production. These elements have to come together – and the faster, the better.

Find out more about sustainable aviation fuel here.

Shell is taking action to help aviation reach net zero

Shell is investing in solutions to help reduce emissions from flying. We aim to produce around 2 million tonnes of SAF a year by 2025 globally. To put that in context, that is over 10 times the total amount of SAF produced globally today. This forms part of Shell’s plan to invest $5-6 billion annually in Shell’s Growth pillar which includes marketing, hydrogen, power, and low-carbon fuels, such as SAF.  By 2030, we aim to have at least 10% of our global aviation fuel sales as SAF. We are already supplying sustainable aviation fuels to customers in Europe, Asia, and the US.  Shell’s strategy, called Powering Progress, focuses on working with our customers in the aviation sector and beyond to help accelerate the global transition to net-zero emissions. Increasing the amount of sustainable aviation fuel is a key part of Shell’s target to become a net-zero business by 2050. We continue to work closely with our partners to assess the development of alternative propulsion technologies for planes and provide high-quality carbon credits to offset emissions that can’t be avoided.

SAF production

Shell is transforming refinery assets to produce SAF and accelerating the use of a range of different technology pathways to create SAF molecules.

Netherlands

Shell is building one of Europe’s largest biofuels facilities at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam. With 820,000-tonnes-a-year production capacity, it will produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel made from waste and is expected to start production in 2024.

Germany

In Germany, Shell announced an ambition to produce SAF at the Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland. The capacity of a commercial bio-PTL (Power-to-Liquid) plant would initially be around 100,000 tonnes per year. The project awaits final investment decision.

Sweden

Vattenfall, SAS, Shell and LanzaTech together are investigating the production of synthetic sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using the LanzaJet “Alcohol to Jet” technology in Sweden. If an investment decision is taken, the production facility will produce up to 50,000 tonnes of synthetic SAF annually. The synthetic SAF would be produced using fossil-free hydrogen and recycled carbon dioxide.

Singapore

Shell announced plans for a biofuels facility to produce SAF at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Singapore. Subject to final investment decision, it will have 550,000 tonnes production capacity

Investing in promising technologies

Shell has invested in LanzaJet, a leading sustainable fuels technology company and sustainable fuels producer. In addition to the investment, Shell will have the opportunity to sublicense the Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) fuel technology and make further investments in the construction of larger-scale production facilities over coming years.

SAF supply

Shell recognises that building our production facilities will take time. To ensure the industry can decarbonise at a faster pace, we are collaborating with other SAF producers and ensuring the right SAF supply infrastructure is in place.

Singapore

In February 2022, Shell became the first supplier of sustainable aviation fuel to customers in Singapore as part of our supply agreement with Neste. Shell has also completed the upgrading of its facility in Singapore which will enable blending of SAF in Singapore.

Hong Kong

Shell is supplying SAF to Cathey Pacific, for its Corporate Programme, as part of our supply agreement with Neste. This will provide corporate customers flying with Cathay Pacific Airways from Hong Kong International Airport the opportunity to reduce emissions associated with business travel or airfreight.

United States

In January 2020 Shell Aviation and World Energy announced a multi-year supply agreement to develop a scalable supply of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). As part of the agreement, Shell Aviation and World Energy also announced that in November 2019 they initiated the supply of 1 million gallons of SAF to Lufthansa Group at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

In July 2020, Shell Aviation announced that working with World Energy, they will supply Amazon Air’s cargo operations with up to six million gallons of blended SAF, which has the power to reduce carbon emissions by up to 20%. This is a great example of how the cargo aviation sector, in addition to commercial airlines, can contribute to accelerating aviation’s pathway to net-zero emissions by building demand.

Collaboration

Collaboration is critical if the world is to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.

Shell is the first fuel supplier to sign the Global Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) declaration, formally committing to promote the acceleration of the development, production, and consumption of sustainable aviation fuel.

Shell is the first energy company to join Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Catalyst programme. The Catalyst programme unites private and public funding for decarbonisation technologies with sustainable aviation fuel being one of them.

Creating New Business Models

Shell is working with American Express Global Business Travel to aggregate SAF demand for corporate travel, to unlock investment and scale SAF production over the coming years. Such model, in turn, would enable airlines and corporations to make progress towards their emissions targets.

World Economic Forum

Shell is also a founding member of Clean Skies for Tomorrow, a coalition of leading airlines, airports, manufacturers, and fuel providers. Together, we are looking for ways for global aviation to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. In October 2020, the coalition developed a joint strategy for accelerating the transition to carbon neutrality in aviation in Europe by increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuels over the next decade. Shell supported the collation’s ambition that the global use and supply of SAF could reach 10% by 2030. Shell also supports coalition’s report findings that EU SAF production levels can feasibly increase to 10% of total EU jet fuel demand by 2030.

Jet Zero Council

Shell Aviation are proud to be a member of the UK government's Jet Zero Council. The Council brings together government, representatives from the environmental sector and the aviation and aerospace industry to tackle aviation emissions in line with the government’s ambition to achieve the first ever zero emission long haul passenger plane.

Leading the conversation

Shell Aviation runs ‘Flightpath’, a conversation series that shares industry expert perspectives and offers potential solutions on issues that are central to the future of the aviation industry.

Policy

Shell supports comprehensive regulatory regime that encourages consistent customer demand and provides fiscal support to drive infrastructure development, new technologies and SAF production plants.

We believe policy should equally follow a sectorial approach – one that sets a firm, long-term vision for net-zero future, with policies that synchronise supply and demand, support the required infrastructure and create a level playing field for low and zero carbon fuels and technology.

We believe mandates are a critical lever to support SAF use, to create a market for SAF. Shell shares a view that globally, mandates should focus on having 10% of jet fuel supply to be SAF by 2030.

Policy should offer comprehensive solutions, so incentives should be introduced alongside mandates to drive price stability and help overcome the SAF affordability challenge the aviation industry is facing. It should ensure that key actors – airlines, airports, OEMs and fuel producers and suppliers – take simultaneous actions. Such approach would be truly balancing encouraging investment in supply and stimulating demand.

We understand that there are local market dynamics and conditions at play, however alignment on regulations will be key in ensuring the sector can both grow and meet its challenges.

Shell calls on governments to encourage the International Civil Aviation Organization to agree to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and include the interim SAF targets (for 2025 and 2030) and policies through CORSIA to deliver on this ambition.

Click here to see our policy positions to deliver sustainable aviation fuel.

Hydrogen

Shell is committed to help more people fly sustainably. Although larger airplanes powered by hydrogen or battery-powered engines are likely to be many years from commercial use, we believe early investment is crucial for making these zero emission technologies a reality.

This is why Shell has invested in ZeroAvia and will continue to work closely with our partners to assess the development of hydrogen – as a feedstock, a direct energy source or as an energy source for fuel cells – as well as SAF for planes.

Carbon credits

Until scalable fuel and technology solutions are deployed, the industry will also need comprehensive carbon offset programs if it is to avoid falling short of its net emissions reduction targets. Importantly, offsetting must not be at the expense of investment in SAF and other avoid or reduce measures.

As of January 2021, Shell supports Etihad Airways on its journey towards a net-zero emissions future by providing carbon credits from Shell’s portfolio of nature-based solutions. Through the provision of certified, high-quality carbon credits Shell supports the decarbonisation journey of customers like Etihad, giving passengers more choices to compensate for emissions whilst sustainable fuels and technology solutions can be deployed at scale.

  

  

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