Qantas and Airbus to establish sustainable aviation fuel in Australia

sustainable aviation

Image credit: Airbus.

The Qantas Group and Airbus are investing up to $287 million to establish a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in Australia in a landmark agreement.  

The Australian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Partnership was signed by Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce and Airbus CEO, Guillaume Faury ahead of the IATA AGM.  

The lack of a local commercial-scale SAF industry has meant that Australia currently exports millions of tonnes of feedstock each year, such as canola and animal tallow, to be made into SAF in other countries.  

The Qantas Group, which has committed to using 10 per cent SAF in its overall fuel mix by 2030, is sourcing SAF overseas, including 15 per cent of its fuel use out of London and 20 million litres each year for flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Australia from 2025. 

Sustainable fuels cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 80 per cent compared to traditional kerosene and are the most significant tool airlines currently have to reduce their impact on the environment – particularly given they can be used in today’s engines with no modifications.  

The Qantas and Airbus partnership will provide funding for locally developed and produced SAF and feedstock initiatives. Projects will have to be commercially viable and meet a strict set of criteria around environmental sustainability.  

Airbus and Qantas agreed to work together on the sustainability initiative part of the airline’s recently announced orders. These include the A350-1000 to operate “Project Sunrise” non-stop flights from Australia to New York and London, and the selection of the A220 and A321XLR under the carrier’s “Project Winton” domestic fleet renewal, as well as lower emission aircraft for Jetstar.  

The new fleet will offer a significant reduction in fuel consumption and carbon emissions of up to 25 per cent from day one and are all already certified for operation using 50 per cent SAF. 

According to Joyce, the investment would accelerate the development of SAF in Australia, create jobs and reduce the nation’s dependence on imported fuels. 

“The use of SAF is increasing globally as governments and industry work together to find ways to decarbonise the aviation sector,” Joyce said. “With this investment, Qantas and Airbus are putting our money where our mouth is and betting on the innovation and ingenuity of Australian industry.”  

“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. 

“The aviation industry also needs the right policy settings in place to ensure the cost of SAF comes down over time so that the cost of air travel doesn’t rise. We’ve had some encouraging discussions with the incoming Australian government given their strong focus on emissions reduction and look forward to that progressing.” 

Faury said that ensuring a sustainable future for the industry has become the priority for Airbus. 

“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,” he said. “This is especially true for a country like Australia, which is geographically distant and highly reliant on aviation to remain connected both domestically and internationally.” 

“The agreement we are signing with Qantas today reflects the new level of partnership between our two companies and our firmly shared commitment to act as catalysts of change to ensure a bright future for our industry.”