Russian aviation strikes a green environmental accord

I AM an optimist. I never tire of reading about ideas that are both progressive and which also benefit humanity in some way, writes Thelma Etim.

It is for this reason that, today, I often find myself writing about the significance of every incremental step in the modernisation of the world’s air cargo industry. I can report that, after so many years of digital procrastination, air cargo is switching on. At last.

At the same time, 2021 is ending with an acute new industry focus on the subject of sustainability, largely due to environmental ultimatums delivered by delegates attending Scotland’s COP26 — even though this was not considered to be emphatic enough by activist Greta Thunburg. Clearly, corporate mission statements posted on websites, or grandiose public proclamations will not suffice, especially as all businesses operating within the air cargo industry are culpable in its high carbon footprint.

It is for this reason that the newly-announced Eurasian Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Alliance initiative inspired by Russia’s oil giant Gazprom Neft in collaboration with some of that nation’s most successful air transport operators, is a seminal event in the country’s modern history.

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, Russia’s outsize and airfreight specialist air cargo group Volga-Dnepr Airlines, as well as the country’s State Scientific Research Institute of Civil Aviation, national carrier Aeroflot, S7 Airlines Group and the National Research Centre Institute named after scientist, mathematician, engineer and a founding father of modern aero- and hydrodynamics Professor Nikolay Yegorovich Zhukovsky — all make up this remarkable alliance initiative.

The result is that the first Russian sustainable aviation fuel manufacturers and developers’ association has launched ambitious plans to conduct the first bio-fuel flight no later than during 2024, underscores Gazprom Neft.

Speaking of the new landmark Eurasian SAF Alliance, Anatoly Cherner, deputy chairman of the management board at Gazprom Neft, believes: “De-carbonisation and new international environmental regulations require innovative technological solutions for the production of fuels with a low carbon footprint. Thanks to scientific expertise, large-scale modernisation and refinery development, [our company] is actively developing the segment of environmentally-friendly products for all types of transport,” he says.

“Now, together with airlines, aircraft manufacturers and scientific institutes, we are able to start new research and develop green aviation fuel unique for the Russian industry. The creation of the SAF-alliance will bring together the expertise of all the participants of the [Russian] air transportation market to make the process of aviation biofuel development more efficient,” he adds.

Bio-based aviation fuels are obtained from sources other than petroleum, such as from woody biomass, hydrogenated fats and oils, recycled waste or other renewable sources.

According to research, sustainable aviation fuel has been found to significantly reduce CO 2 emissions from air transportation — and can be utilised without any need to modify existing supply chain infrastructure, or aircraft and their engines.

Julien Franyatt, head of Airbus in Russia, observes: “Achieving zero CO 2 emissions and contributing to climate change mitigation requires the efforts of all industry players. Together with other aviation industry leaders, we have taken the first step towards greener aviation in Russia,” he points out.

“As part of this alliance, we will combine our expertise to accelerate the sustainable aviation fuel certification process and promote its development in Russia. All Airbus passenger aircraft are already certified to fly with 50 per cent sustainable fuel blends and we are researching certification for [eventual] 100 per cent use. We will be glad to share our knowledge with the alliance partners,” he discloses.

The members of the alliance intend to develop a roadmap to study the operational properties of SAF, to support research and development and further develop the standards and technical regulations for ‘into the wing’ refuelling, which is particularly good news for Gazprom Neft subsidiary fuel supplier Gazpromneft-Aero (GPNA), which saw the volume of re-fuelling of international cargo flights increase by 30 per cent to up to 70,000 tonnes in the first nine months of 2021.

GPNA, which has also made great strides in digitalisation such as including the introduction of block-chain payments, provides aircraft refuelling services and ‘wing-tip’ jet fuel sales for a substantial number of major freighter operators and combination carriers, including CAL Cargo Airlines, Cargolux, Lufthansa Cargo, ASL Airlines Belgium, Silk Way West, Sichuan Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Korean Air, and Air China.

Julien Franyatt, head of Airbus in Russia, observes: “Achieving zero CO 2 emissions and contributing to climate change mitigation requires the efforts of all industry players. Together with other aviation industry leaders, we have taken the first step towards greener aviation in Russia.”

Denis Fisenko, chief executive of green aviation contributor AirBridgeCargo (ABC) Airlines, points out: “Volga-Dnepr Group is one of the largest players in the air cargo transportation market. We are already doing a lot to reduce the negative impact on the environment through implementing initiatives on fuel efficiency, the use of a modern aircraft fleet with low CO 2 emissions, the introduction of ‘green initiatives’, and, most importantly, our efforts to increasing the load of every flight to ensure we deliver vital goods, not air.

“The creation of the Eurasian SAF Alliance in Russia is another step towards the environmental sustainability of our industry. Only through joint actions will we be able to overcome the barriers that hinder the implementation of SAF in Russia.”

Meanwhile, Ivan Tarasov, acting deputy general director of the State Scientific Research Institute of Civil Aviation, Russia, concurs: “By creating the Eurasian SAF, the alliance members integrate the potential of scientific centres of oil and gas, aircraft manufacturing and transport industries in order to solve pressing environmental problems. The State Research Institute of Civil Aviation is committed to provide scientific and methodological support for the process of the introducing bio-fuels into civil aviation.”

Andrey Chikhanchin, deputy general director for commerce and finance at Aeroflot, notes that environmental friendliness is becoming one of the most important topics in aviation. “Aeroflot Group has already made a significant contribution to improving environmental efficiency reducing specific CO 2 emissions by 30 per cent over the past decade.

“Signing the declaration on the Eurasian SAF Alliance means Aeroflot is taking a step towards the future and reaffirming its commitment to the environmental priorities of the industry. The concerted efforts we make together with industry leaders will add to increasing the sustainability and gradual decarbonisation of aviation.”

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Originally published at https://aircargoeye.com on December 17, 2021.

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I am the editor of air cargo industry news website aircargoeye.com, an alternative news and comment outlet for the global airfreight business.

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Thelma Etim

Thelma Etim

I am the editor of air cargo industry news website aircargoeye.com, an alternative news and comment outlet for the global airfreight business.