1, 2, 3 Action: The Role of Airports in the Development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels

Guest Author by Guest Author | Apr 6, 2023
By Quincy Tjaden, Junior Aviation Consultant, To70, and Vincent de Haes, Sustainable Aviation Consultant, To70

As concern for climate change rises, the aviation sector is pushing for actions to reduce its environmental impact. Across the world, with Europe and North America in the lead, the sector wants to ensure its license to operate and achieve sustainable growth. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) are one of the most promising solutions available today. As a key player at the heart of SAF operations, airports have the opportunity to take a role in scaling-up its uptake. However, airports are currently not directly part of the fuel supply chain and are therefore often examining what role they can play to increase their impact. This is why the European Union (EU) funded project STARGATE developed a catalogue offering an overview of actions airports can take to stimulate SAF uptake.

SAF supporting airports’ license to operate

Environmental awareness has been an important topic for a long time and there is increasing societal pressure on aviation. Nevertheless, passenger air traffic worldwide is expected to grow exponentially in the future. In line with ACI World data, the Airbus Global market forecast expects the amount of passengers worldwide to more than double by 2041[1]. Without sustainable actions by the sector, the forecasted growth will not be possible. This trend is expected to grow worldwide as the impact of climate change becomes more visible. Airports, by taking environmental action such as supporting SAF development, can play a major role in ensuring aviation’s acceptance.

ACI-ATI Integration of SAF into the Air Transport System
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Airport actions to stimulate the uptake of SAF

The main task of airports is to provide infrastructure and facilitate a safe and efficient movement of people and goods. Most airports are not involved in the purchase of fuel; it is up to the airlines and the fuel producers. This makes it complicated for airports to play a significant role in the uptake of SAF. However, there are a number of actions airports can take to stimulate SAF usage which are described in the SAF catalogue.  

The catalogue, developed within Stargate by To70 with the University of Hasselt and supported by Brussels Airport Company, contains more than 25 actions that airports can undertake to stimulate SAF uptake. As each airport operates in a specific context, the most suitable actions vary per airport. Therefore, they may select the actions that suit their situation the best. These are divided into three categories:

  • Increase SAF uptake: The first category contains the most direct actions to stimulate the SAF uptake. Actions within this category are based on the direct influence airports have on their operations such as fee differentiation for SAF, SAF incentive fund and supply chain investments among others. 
  • Increase SAF awareness: The second category focuses on awareness to stimulate the uptake of SAF. The actions are mostly aimed at passengers and have the goal to increase understanding and buy-in. Examples of actions are information campaigns, passenger nudging and publishing research results.
  • Increase airport leadership on SAF: The third category includes actions that stimulate the uptake of SAF by increasing the airport’s leadership on SAF. These actions are based on ‘setting the good example’, but also on bringing the right people together. Examples of actions are purchasing SAF for all airport corporate flights and setting up a SAF working group with stakeholders.

Taking action

The increase in airports participating in the ACI Airport Carbon Accreditation program shows that more and more airports aim to take a leading role in sustainability. Going beyond their own operations is a critical part of that journey as the airports reach level 3/3+ and level 4/4+. SAF is crucial to accommodate the forecasted growth of aviation, and airports can play a central role. As it is not always clear to airports what actions they can undertake, the Stargate SAF actions catalogue provides guidance. It is time to pick up the catalogue and start taking action!

Catalogue of Airport SAF Actions
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The catalogue of Airport SAF Actions is a work of To70 in collaboration with the University of Hasselt and supported by Brussels Airport Company, and has been developed within the EU-funded Stargate project. If you would like to know more, please reach out to the authors.

[1] Airbus, 2022; Global Market Forecast

Quincy Tjaden is a junior aviation consultant at To70. With his passion for aviation and sustainability, he works every day to reduce the negative effects of aviation. This is key for the future of aviation.

Vincent de Haes is a sustainable aviation consultant at To70. He supports airports, policy makers and other clients in understanding the impact of the transition to sustainable aviation. The future of the sector requires collaboration and ambitious thinking by all stakeholders’

Both are involved in the EU green deal Stargate project and have contributed to the realisation of the catalogue for airport SAF actions.

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