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Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Delta Air Lines and Shell Aviation ink SAF deal

Delta Air Lines and Shell Aviation ink SAF deal
A Delta Air Lines Airbus 321neo aircraft (photo courtesy Delta).

US-headed air carrier Delta Air Lines Inc. (Delta), has announced that it is making another multi-million-dollar commitment to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on its quest to scale what is widely considered the airline industry’s largest proven decarbonization lever. Delta will purchase up to 10 million (US) gallons (≈ 37.85 million litres) of neat SAF from Shell Aviation over a two-year period for use at its hub at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

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This will increase the global airline’s SAF commitments to over 200 million (US) gallons (≈ 757 million litres) – more than halfway to its goal of SAF comprising 10 percent of its fuel use annually by the end of 2030 subject to third-party investment and timely facility development, and well on its way to 35 percent SAF use by 2035.

Delta’s ambitions complement those of Shell, which aims to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.

There isn’t enough SAF available today to fuel the world’s commercial airlines for a single day. That’s why Delta continues creating demand signals like this arrangement with Shell – to show this major decarbonization lever is worth investing in and growing. We can have a huge impact in just a few years if stakeholders and government work together to provide the same level of investment and incentives currently available for the fuel that runs our cars, said Pam Fletcher, Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

Delta’s LAX hub will receive the blended SAF thanks to California’s long-standing low-carbon fuel standard that provides incentives for producers to provide SAF to the state.

Other states are now exploring similar SAF programs and tax incentives to complement federal policies that encourage the investment in and scaling of SAF.

According to Delta, SAF’s power is threefold:

  • The lifecycle carbon emissions of producing neat SAF are up to 80 percent less than that of traditional jet fuel. And in some cases, like with SAF partner Gevo, producing SAF contributes to lowering the carbon footprint of agriculture, too.
  • It’s a safe, fully certified “drop-in fuel” that meets ASTM Jet A specifications, which means it can be transported using the existing fuel infrastructure to airports. Delta was a key player in proving this in 2022.
  • Neat SAF can be blended with conventional jet fuel and used in today’s aircraft engines – no modifications needed – at a ratio of up to 50 percent.

Delta has been a leader in proving the technology through SAF engine tests at its state-of-the-art engine test cell in Atlanta, Georgia (GA).

It’s brilliant to see Delta prioritize SAF, helping them to reduce lifecycle emissions while providing the demand that will help unlock further SAF production and scale supply. This marks another important development for the future of sustainable aviation, as ambitious offtake agreements like this can hold the key to driving the airline industry’s transition toward a more sustainable future, said Jan Toschka, President of Shell Aviation.

Delta’s commitment to transparency across its business includes sustainability and the agreement also includes Delta testing the tracking of Shell SAF delivery and its use data through Avelia, one of the world’s first blockchain-powered digital SAF solutions, launched by Shell Aviation and its partners last year.

This technology is expected to enable Delta to track SAF and environmental data with full transparency to reduce its emissions as well as that of its corporate SAF customers while avoiding issues such as double-counting.

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