Sustainable Aviation Fuel Program Announced by Korean Air to achieve goal of Net Zero by 2050

Last week, Korean Air announced its implementation of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel program for cargo, marking further progress for its use in the Asia-Pacific region.

What is Sustainable Aviation Fuel?

Sustainable Aviation Fuel is a renewable alternative to A1 Jet Fuel. SAF recycles carbon dioxide absorbed by biomass used in its source – unlike fossil fuels, the use of which acts as a contributor to further CO2 in the atmosphere. SAF can be blended with A1 Jet Fuel and is operationally equivalent.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that use of SAF could reduce carbon emissions by up to 65%, establishing it as a crucial element of their strategy toward achieving Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050.

Neste, the world’s leading SAF producer, derives its fuel from food waste. Residual raw materials, like cooking oil or animal fats, comprise Neste’s SAF. The firm proposes that the sheer amount of said materials currently in use dismisses the need for further recovery of fossil fuels from beneath the Earth’s crust. In the future, SAF could be retrieved from forest waste, algae, and municipal solid waste – in other words, daily household waste.

Neste's SAF is made from food waste, like the animal fat pictured.
© Neste

Korea’s Flag Carrier Sets Goal of Net Zero

In October 2021, the IATA pledged to the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This commitment aligns with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature increase in the 21st Century.

As a member of the IATA, Korean Air is responsible for progressing toward the Alliance’s shared goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2050. The carrier announced that it would work alongside government stakeholders, private institutions, and refiners to review projects to increase the production and use of SAF.

The airline’s strategy invites customer support in its journey to carbon neutrality. Through the Korean Air Cargo SAF program, passengers can contribute to the program. Said contributions will be used to purchase further SAF, and customers will be notified of the amount of carbon emissions their donation reduces.

In a statement alongside the press release, Senior Vice President Jaedong Eum emphasised the importance of customer participation in the program:

“We’re pleased to work together with our clients to reduce carbon emissions from cargo operations through the SAF program, Korean Air is committed to sustainable development with our next generation in mind.”

Progress toward Net Zero in the Asia-Pacific Region

The airline joins other carriers in the Asia-Pacific Region, turning toward SAF as a major factor in the journey to carbon neutrality. Last year, Japan Airlines declared plans to purchase 26.5 Million Gallons of SAF over five years, with deliveries expected around 2027.

On July 14th, Air China made history by flying the first commercial flight using blended SAF from Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport to Beijing Airport. 10% of the fuel used to power the flight was cooking oil, repurposed into SAF by Chinese Gas and Petroleum Company Sinopec. Compared to traditional jet fuel, Sinopec’s SAF reduces carbon emissions by up to 50%.

An Air China A350 Airbus.
© AndrewDawes

This summer, Air New Zealand announced an investment of over $2 Million into research into the production and use of SAF in New Zealand. The project, funded by both Air New Zealand and New Zealand’s government, will determine the viability of SAF production in Antorea.

Like Korean Air, Cathay Pacific offers a program where customers can contribute to the use of SAF on their carriers. The Airline pledges that in 2030, 10% of all fuel used to fly will be SAF.

Would you fly on a plane powered by SAF? If so, when do you think your next opportunity will be?

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Bella Pelster
Bella Pelster
I'm a Londoner with a huge passion for travel, history and sustainability. In my spare time I love reading novels (any genre, any author) and watching television and films (mostly the sopranos)!