Despite the pandemic’s adverse effects on Boeing’s order books, adding to the existing problem of the grounded MAX last year, the company has driven forward with its sustainability strategy. Just 3 months after the appointment of its first ever Chief Sustainability Officer, Chris Raymond, on 01OCT20, Boeing announced its commitment to ensuring its commercial airplanes are both capable and certified to fly on 100% SAF by 2030.
On his first day in his new job as Chief Sustainability Officer, Chris Raymond rightly observed that “We can’t let the current situation in the world put this issue [sustainability] on the shelf and get back to it. I think when the industry recovers, if anything, there’s a lot more discussion on how important this issue is to all of our stakeholders. […] It’s time to double down on it and put more intention and focus on it.”
100% sustainable aviation fuels ready by 2030
That intention and focus was communicated on 22JAN21: a clear commitment to ensuring that Boeing’s commercial aircraft “are capable and certified to fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuels by 2030”, and a self-proclaimed ambitious target, given the time frame of just less than a decade left to achieve its goal of “advancing the long-term sustainability of commercial aviation.”
“With a long history of innovation in sustainable aviation fuels, certifying our family of airplanes to fly on 100% sustainable fuels significantly advances Boeing's deep commitment to innovate and operate to make the world better,” Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Raymond said. “Sustainable aviation fuels [SAF] are proven, used every day, and have the most immediate and greatest potential to reduce carbon emissions in the near and long term when we work together as an industry.”
Building on experience
Boeing is not starting from scratch. The company has been collaborating with airlines and various industry, government, and research institutions in developing the conditions required to implement sustainable aviation fuels – next to safety requirements, two key obstacles are adequate production volumes and cost. In 2008, Boeing carried out biofuel test flights in coordination with airlines and engine manufacturers and sought approval to use sustainable aviation fuels in 2011. Since then, it has successfully carried out test flights where petroleum jet fuel was replaced with 100% SAF. “In 2018, the Boeing ecoDemonstrator flight-test program made the world's first commercial airplane flight using 100% sustainable fuels with a 777 Freighter, in collaboration with FedEx Express” the press release underlines.
Committed to cooperating in reducing cargo emissions
"Our industry and customers are committed to addressing climate change, and sustainable aviation fuels are the safest and most measurable solution to reduce aviation carbon emissions in the coming decades," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal. "We're committed to working with regulators, engine companies and other key stakeholders to ensure our airplanes and eventually our industry can fly entirely on sustainable jet fuels."
The focus now, therefore, is to establish the requirements and necessary adaptations in order to ensure safe and feasible use of 100% SAF in its existing and future commercial aircraft. Boeing will be collaborating with the regulatory authorities and stakeholders across the industry “to raise the blending limit for expanded use.”
A much cleaner footprint
The case for SAF is clear: “According to the Air Transport Action Group, U.S. Department of Energy and several other scientific studies, sustainable aviation fuels reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% over the fuel's life cycle with the potential to reach 100% in the future.” Currently, SAF is still blended with normal jet fuel in varying degrees up to the maximum authorized 50%. That percentage needs increasing to 100% soon, if the aviation industry is to successfully reduce its carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2050.
As for production, the raw material is almost endless in its abundance: “Sustainable aviation fuels can be made from a wide variety of feedstocks, including non-edible plants, agricultural and forestry waste, non-recyclable household waste, industrial plant off-gassing and other sources. Sustainability of the fuels is assured through strong, credible sustainability certifications through third-party organizations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.”
Sustainability is more than just SAF, however
Outlining what sustainability means for Boeing, back on 01OCT21, Chris Raymond emphasized inclusion, diversity, the focus on the next generation, and above all, on ensuring that the entire supply chain requires focus: “As we build back and recover as an industry, we want to do that in a way that is even more environmentally friendly.”
Alongside the fuel endeavors, all Boeing’s products, services, and operational issues would be revised or designed with the environment in mind.
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