Blockchain Tech Could Send Demand for Sustainable Aviation Fuel Soaring

01 July 2022 by Samantha Calvey
blog author

One of the world’s first blockchain-powered digital sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) solutions for business travel has been launched following a collaboration between three major corporations.

Shell, Accenture and American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) have unveiled Avelia, the largest SAF book-and-claim pilot at launch, which will offer approximately one million gallons of SAF.

The amount is enough to power almost 15,000 individual business traveller flights from London to New York. Air commuters can use the book-and-claim facility to pay for SAF, and claim the benefits, even if the sustainable fuel is not available at their departure airport as it will be fed into another aircraft in an airport where available.

Once book-and-claim (a carbon accounting mechanism) is approved by industry bodies as an acceptable form of emissions reduction, Avelia could enable airlines and companies using the sustainable fuel to record and report the associated emissions reduction benefits of SAF towards their voluntary ESG reporting, regardless of where in the world it is used in a flight.

SAF is currently made from plant or animal material, but R&D is investigating other methods to produce industrial quantities of the fuel synthetically, using hydrogen obtained from low-emission sources and carbon dioxide captured from other industrial processes or the air.

The pilot program aims to complement and work alongside airlines’ current corporate SAF programmes and will use blockchain technology to secure allocation of SAF’s environmental qualities to companies and airlines after it has entered the fuel network. This will demonstrate that airlines and business customers can reduce emissions and boost transparency and accountability.

Shell and Accenture developed Avelia in conjunction with Energy Web Foundation (EWF), and the program includes Amex GBT’s travel management services to aggregate global business demand for SAF. It is expected to increase SAF supply and use to help accelerate the aviation industry’s journey towards net-zero emissions.

Jan Toschka, President, Shell Aviation, said: “SAF is a key enabler of decarbonisation in the aviation industry, and it’s available today. However, it’s currently scarce and costs more than conventional jet fuel. Avelia will help trigger demand for SAF at scale, providing confidence to suppliers like us to further increase investment in production, and in turn helping to lower the price point for these fuels.”

SAF is currently two to eight times more expensive than jet fuel and as fuel is responsible for a significant share of airline costs, airlines struggle to absorb decarbonisation costs. SAF offers significant potential for decarbonisation without the need to modify current infrastructure - it can reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80 per cent, when used neat, compared to conventional jet fuel.

Paul Abbott, CEO, Amex GBT, said:“ A truly viable route to decarbonising air travel is now open for business. We’re calling on all companies to join us and share the costs and benefits of SAF across the travel and aviation sectors. Airlines will gain access to the buying capacity of businesses, drawing from Amex GBT’s 19,000 customers around the world.”

Rachel Barton, Europe Strategy Lead, Accenture, said: “We believe every business should be a sustainable business and that sustainability will serve as one of the most powerful forces for change. Our vision for the Avelia platform is to bring together airlines, corporates, cargo players, and SAF suppliers in a trusted ecosystem that no individual company could build or access on its own.

“Blockchain technology will be piloted to help ensure trust via data integrity, validate proof of ownership, and enable transparent tracking of the environmental benefits of SAF for customers.”

Samantha Calvey, Senior Consultant at Acre, said: “It’s extremely promising to see Avelia launch and there is significant potential for accelerated advancement of SAF’s supply to industry.

“It will be interesting to see which airlines and businesses are willing to be at the forefront of driving change across the travel and aviation sectors by also joining the platform. In order for SAF to have a significant impact, investment and commitment will be critical.”

Shell, Accenture, and Amex GBT are the platform’s first customers, hoping to steer new businesses towards Avelia to purchase the environmental attributes of SAF. Shell has committed to purchasing the environmental attributes equivalent to 100,000 gallons of SAF over Avelia’s pilot phase, which it will increase once more SAF is available, in line with its ambition to abate 45 per cent of Shell’s corporate travel emissions through SAF by 2030.

Significant SAF supply and use will depend on scalable co-investment models, which allow companies to co-fund the cost of sustainable fuel.

​Samantha is a Recruitment Consultant within Acre's Sustainable Business team. She focuses on recruiting for junior to mid-level roles within infrastructure, manufacturing and professional services.