Heathrow accuses ministers of stalling over greener jet fuel

The airport urged the government to provide more support for domestic production of sustainable aviation fuel.

Neil Lancefield
Friday 24 November 2023 12:54 GMT
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<p>Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world </p>

Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world

Heathrow has accused the government of stalling on securing a greener future for aviation.

The west London airport urged ministers to legislate for a scheme which will provide more financial certainty to companies which could produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the UK.

In September, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced plans to introduce a revenue certainty mechanism by the end of 2026.

SAF is made from sustainable sources such as agricultural waste and used cooking oil, meaning it uses 70% less carbon than traditional jet fuel. It is seen as vital to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon emissions but is currently several times more expensive to produce.

Heathrow runs a scheme through which it provides SAF to airlines and covers around half of the extra cost.

It announced on Thursday it will make £71 million available to carriers through the programme in 2024, aiming for 2.5% of fuel used at the airport to be SAF, up from a target of 1.5 per cent this year.

The US has introduced a tax credit scheme to lure investors in SAF production.

Under the DfT’s SAF mandate, at least 10 per cent of the fuel used by airlines in the UK must be made from sustainable feedstocks by 2030. Without UK SAF production, airlines will rely heavily on imports to adhere to the mandate.

Heathrow director of carbon Matt Gorman said: “Sustainable aviation fuels are a proven reality – they have already powered hundreds of thousands of flights and we will soon show we can fly the Atlantic fossil fuel free.

“Heathrow’s first of its kind incentive scheme has seen SAF use at the airport ramp up in recent years.

“Now, the government needs to capitalise on this strong demand and legislate for a revenue certainty mechanism to enable a homegrown SAF industry, before it is too late for the UK to benefit from jobs, growth and energy security this would bring.”

A DfT spokesman said: “Our sustainable aviation fuel programme is one of the most comprehensive in the world, and our mandate will provide strong incentives for the industry to help drive further demand for SAF in the UK.

“We remain committed to introducing a revenue certainty mechanism by 2026, and are currently on track with our consultation.”

Last week the DfT awarded a total of £53 million to nine projects in the latest round of the Advanced Fuels Fund competition to develop SAF.

SAF can currently be used in jet engines to a maximum blend of 50 per cent with kerosene without the need for any modifications.

Virgin Atlantic will become the first major airline to operate a transatlantic flight using 100 per cent SAF on 28 November. The flight will operate from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

Earlier this week, Transport Secretary Mark Harper insisted the UK is “on track” to meet its target of having at least five commercial SAF plants in construction by 2025. It said the government has invested “significant amounts of public money” into developing SAF, and is “not complacent”.

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