Amex GBT and Shell call for companies to buy sustainable aviation fuel

3 Jul 2022 by Tom Otley

American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) and Shell Aviation have created a SAF pilot programme for corporates. The programme uses a new platform called Avelia.

Amex GBT and Shell form alliance over Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

The new programme aims “to demonstrate that the tracking of SAF data, at scale, can be delivered in a credible manner”, and, so far, purchase commitments have been made by Accenture, Amex GBT, Aon and Shell. The companies say that these commitments are supporting market development and driving investment. Participating organisations have access to one million gallons of SAF which will be certified in line with the regulatory standards set within the country of delivery.

The pilot programme is operated on Avelia, a newly launched blockchain-powered book-and-claim platform developed by Shell and Accenture, with the support of the Energy Web Foundation (EWF). The hope is that it will prove to “decision makers that a mechanism for corporations and airlines to book-and-claim SAF is an acceptable form of emission reduction.”

Shell Aviation will supply SAF into the aviation fuel network and the ‘book-and-claim’ enables travellers to buy the SAF and, if it is not available at the departure airport, the SAF will instead be fed into another aircraft in an airport where it is available.

Non-governmental organizations including the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, the Smart Freight Centre, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Transportation and Logistics SAF Guidelines “will observe and be engaged”. The importance of this is that participating organisations will want the credit for their purchases of SAF to be applied to their Scope 3 abatement. This can only happen once the technology has been approved by industry bodies.

Amex GBT and Shell Aviation says that “Once book-and-claim is approved by industry bodies as an acceptable form of emissions reduction, Avelia could enable airlines and companies who choose SAF to authenticate, record and report the associated emissions reduction benefits of SAF towards their voluntary ESG reporting, regardless of where in the world the SAF is used to fuel a flight.”

Currently SAF is two as much as eight times more expensive than jet fuel. To help reduce the price differential, many airlines have made commitments to purchase SAF, sometimes many years in advance, to encourage the development of facilities that can supply the fuel. David Reimer, Executive Vice President Global and Multinational clients, and Managing Director for the Americas, Amex GBT said that there was a need for companies to get involved to drive decarbonisation of the industry and reach ambitious net-zero targets: “If it’s left to individual consumers, nothing is going to happen,” he said, adding that since three per cent of carbon emission are from aviation and of that, 25 per cent is business travel, “To sit down and do nothing is really not acceptable”.

Airlines are already directly supporting the production of SAF by making commitments to buy SAF, and to support these off-take agreements, they are also signing up corporate customers directly:

Cathay Pacific launches Asia’s first major corporate sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) programme

All Nippon Airways expands sustainable aviation fuel option to corporate travel

Air France and KLM launch Sustainable Aviation Fuel option for corporate customers

Amex GBT and Shell Aviation say the new initiative is “intended to complement and work alongside airlines’ current corporate SAF programmes”.

In this scenario, instead of an airline contracting with a corporate, the airline would join the alliance and “gain access to the buying capacity of businesses [and] drawing from Amex GBT’s 19,000 customers from 140 countries, including thousands of small to medium sized businesses and 40 of the top 100 companies by travel spend.”

AmexGBT and Shell Aviation believe that the book and claim mechanism is required to structurally scale up SAF supply. If it becomes the industry-accepted carbon accounting mechanism, then it will allow both corporations and airlines to claim emission reduction from the use of SAF.

Recent Science Based Target (SBTi) Aviation Sectors guidance has supported this hope, and AmexGBT and Shell Aviation say that by participating in Avelia, partner airlines will become the early adopters of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Carbon Accounting and Insetting Guidelines published by the Smart Freight Centre and MIT.

At present, there are currently numerous carbon accounting standards in existence, and a number of diverging models. The concept of using a book and claim mechanism to scale SAF demand is very new, and although bodies such as SBTi have indicated that book and claim  is a viable solution, there is not yet a particular set of principles in place leaving the aviation industry still able to determine what is acceptable and which principles should be followed.

Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott said: “This pilot is an important foundational step on our journey towards a net-zero world by 2050. As more businesses and organizations like Aon join this SAF pilot program, market signals will grow stronger, making SAF more cost-competitive with conventional jet fuel.”

Jan Toschka, President, Shell Aviation, said: “SAF is the only viable option for reducing aviation emissions in the near-to medium-term. Lower or zero carbon technologies such as hydrogen and electric flight are decades away from having impact at scale, while SAF can be used immediately without the need for a fundamental change in infrastructure or aircraft design.”

James Platt, Aon’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We believe there is an opportunity to chart a better path for both our firm and society to become more resilient and sustainable. As we help our clients make better decisions as they navigate the volatility and risk in managing climate transition, we are also making bold moves to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. We are proud to be among the first to join this initiative in piloting a solution for SAF that will help Aon and others meet their emissions reduction targets and sustainability commitments.”

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