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Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Air New Zealand and NZ Government invest in SAF studies

Air New Zealand and NZ Government invest in SAF studies
Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Government have announced a NZ$2 million-plus investment in the next phase of studies to consider the feasibility of producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the country (photo courtesy Air New Zealand).

Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Government have announced a NZ$2 million-plus investment in the next phase of studies to consider the feasibility of producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in New Zealand (Aotearoa).

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The announcement, including a commitment of more than NZ$1.5 million from Air New Zealand and NZ$765 000 from the Government, was made on June 16, 2023, at the launch of the draft Tourism Environment Action Plan, hosted by Air New Zealand and attended by the Minister of Tourism, Hon Peeni Henare.

Local production of sustainable aviation fuel would be game-changing for tourism in Aotearoa. Decarbonization of tourism journeys is a major focus of the draft Tourism Environment Action Plan, which was launched today for public feedback. Aviation contributes up to 60 percent of tourism’s total emissions, Minister Peeni Henare said.

Made from waste feedstocks, like forestry residues, municipal waste, or used cooking oils (UCO), SAF can be ‘dropped in’ to existing refueling systems for current aircraft without any modification.

The inputs and processes used to make SAF result in significantly lower lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than fossil jet fuel.

Sustainable aviation fuel currently represents the most viable option for reducing carbon emissions from aviation. Investment in low-carbon technologies is a key action under the draft action plan and these studies could get us one step closer to a net-zero carbon tourism sector. A domestic sustainable aviation fuel industry would build tourism and aviation sector resilience and also bring flow-on economic benefits like job creation, said Minister Peeni Henare.

Technologies selected for phase two

This new investment follows an earlier yearlong Request for Proposals (RFP process that invited innovators to demonstrate the viability of operating a SAF plant at a commercial scale in New Zealand.

Air New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport, Te Taurapa Tūhono New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and the Ministry for the Environment have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate in the delivery of the studies.

Air New Zealand Chief Sustainability Officer Kiri Hannifin says the airline is grateful for the support from the Government to progress work considering the viability of SAF production in New Zealand.

Our climate is worsening at a rate far faster than predicted. We all need to take immediate and drastic action to protect what we love, including our land, and all that depends on her. So much of what we rely on in Aotearoa is based on our magnificent natural assets including tourism and food production. Air New Zealand has a significant role to play in transitioning our economy to a lower carbon future and flying with SAF is a key part of this transition, Kiri Hannifin said.

The airline, along with Government officials, evaluated proposals from multiple international SAF producers to understand what technologies are available globally and how these could be transposed into the New Zealand context.

Moving into phase two, the working group is progressing with two proposals:

  • One with LanzaJet Inc., a subsidiary of carbon capture and transformation (CCT) company LanzaTech Global, Inc., in partnership with Z Energy Ltd, that will investigate the use of forestry residues as the feedstock and consider landfill waste as a supplementary feedstock;
  • One with Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc., in partnership with Air bp, will investigate the use of non-recyclables and other wastes that go into landfill as feedstock.

The next phase will further evaluate the technical, economic, supply chain, and environmental feasibility of establishing and operating a SAF production facility in New Zealand.

The second stage of the SAF feasibility work will continue until early 2024.

Globally, SAF is in very high demand but limited supply. Commercially producing SAF in New Zealand would not only help lower the country’s emissions while creating jobs, regional economic development, and Māori and Iwi investment opportunities, but also provide energy security and energy independence which is something New Zealand doesn’t have said Kiri Hannifin.

Utilize forestry residues

According to LanzaJet, its study will explore the use of domestic New Zealand waste products to produce SAF, primarily focusing on forestry residues.

LanzaTech will transform the waste raw materials into low-carbon ethanol through its commercially deployed gas fermentation technology, and LanzaJet will convert ethanol into SAF with its proven and scaled-up Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) technology.

A sustainable fuels industry enables countries to gain energy independence with domestic production of fuels alongside infrastructure and economic development while having a positive benefit on climate change – and that’s what we’re looking to enable in New Zealand. We are eager to begin working with Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation, and Employment to demonstrate the feasibility of SAF production in New Zealand, said Jimmy Samartzis, Founding CEO of LanzaJet.

LanzaTech, which was founded in Auckland, New Zealand, will be responsible for conducting a supply chain risk assessment while also evaluating the potential for using domestic waste to produce ethanol through gasification.

We must accelerate the deployment of SAF facilities globally to create new jobs and deliver much-needed volumes of sustainable fuels to a sector that has limited options today. We appreciate the leadership shown by Air New Zealand and the New Zealand government in enabling a future where domestic wastes and residues can be meaningfully repurposed, enabling energy security and regional growth opportunities, said Dr Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.

As announced, LanzaTech and Lanzajet have partnered with Z Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ampol Group and New Zealand’s largest fuel retailer, to support the study’s second stage by evaluating the end-to-end supply chain, including feedstock options and the economic impact on the regions.

While there is no silver bullet in this energy transition, it’s clear SAF will play a critical role in reducing the aviation sector’s emissions. Z is looking forward to being a valuable partner alongside LanzaJet and LanzaTech by leveraging its local supply chain expertise, its previous experience supplying biofuels to customers including Air New Zealand, and the expertise of the wider Ampol Group, said Lindis Jones, CEO of Z Energy.

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