Shell announced Thursday that it will convert a huge fuel refinery in the Netherlands to create nearly half a million tons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) per year. The news comes as major airlines have committed to cutting their carbon emissions by moving away from fossil fuels.
Plans call for the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam facility to be “among the biggest in Europe to produce SAF and renewable diesel made from waste,” Shell said in a statement.
The refinery is expected to begin production in 2024.
The aviation industry has been moving quickly this year to embrace SAF. Delta Air Lines, one of the world’s largest, announced an agreement with Chevron aimed at testing SAF and eventually replacing 10 percent of Delta’s jet fuel with SAF by 2030. The airline boasts a fleet of more than 800 airliners.
Another of the world’s largest airlines, British Airways (BA), is planning to team up with BP to source SAF for all flights between London, and the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh during a climate change summit in Glasgow later this year.
During the next 20 years, BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), has committed to spending $400 million to develop SAF.
This month, President Biden challenged aviation industry leaders to create 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030, setting a goal for a carbon-free U.S. aviation sector by 2050. The White House said it will offer tax incentives to push airlines and other industry stakeholders toward reaching the carbon-free benchmark.
Why This Matters
Building new production infrastructure has been one of the hurdles faced by the SAF industry. Shell’s high-volume facility could help scale up global output and ultimately drive SAF prices down.
Of the plant’s total expected annual output of 820,000 metric tonnes (904,000 tons), Shell said its new facility would eventually make more than 410,000 metric tonnes (about 452,000 U.S. tons) of SAF per year. The remaining fuel—approximately the same amount—would be renewable diesel fuel, the company said.
Overall, Shell says it aims to cut its production of traditional fuels by 55 percent by 2030.
Sustainability solutions provider 4AIR has created a global, interactive map showing airports and FBOs where SAF is available.
Burning SAF emits significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fossil-based aviation fuel. It’s made by mixing conventional fuel with various renewable materials including cooking oil, plant oils, agricultural residues, and municipal waste.