First flight fuelled by SAF produced in France takes off from CDG Airport

On 18 May 2021, the first long-haul flight fuelled by SAF produced 100 per cent in France flew from Paris-CDG to Montreal, Canada.

First flight fuelled by SAF produced in France takes off from CDG Airport

Credit: Groupe ADP

Air France-KLM, Total, Groupe ADP and Airbus have joined forces to operate the first long-haul flight fuelled by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) produced in France. At 15:40 on 18 May 2021, Air France Flight 342 took off from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport’s (CDG) Terminal 2E for Montreal, Canada.

The flight is a tangible result of the four groups’ joint ambition to decarbonise air transportation and to develop a SAF supply chain in France, prerequisite for their widespread use in French airports.

No modifications to storage and distribution infrastructure, aircraft or engines are required to incorporate biofuels. Their gradual introduction worldwide should significantly reduce CO2 emissions from air transportation, in line with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The biofuel used for the Paris to Montreal flight was made from waste and residue sourced from the circular economy. Total produced the SAF from used cooking oil at its La Mède biorefinery (in southern France) and at its Oudalle factory (near Le Havre), without using any virgin plant-based oil.

This first 100 per cent French SAF received ISCC-EU certification from the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System, an independent organisation that guarantees sustainability. The 16 per cent blend on this flight lessened its CO2 emissions by 20 tonnes.

By developing and supporting France’s first sustainable aviation fuel, Air France-KLM, Total, Groupe ADP and Airbus are leading the way in making France a driving force for innovation, in support of the energy and environmental transition. French legislation currently provides for the incorporation of one per cent of this type of biofuel on all flights departing from France as of 2022, ahead of the ambition of gradual incorporation (up to two per cent by 2025 and five per cent by 2030), which will be carried out within the framework of the European Union’s (EU) European Green Deal.

To meet these requirements, Total will also produce SAF at its Grandpuits zero-crude complex near Paris from 2024.

The Paris to Montreal flight also illustrates the synergy of the different drivers for shrinking aviation’s environmental footprint – for example, sustainable aviation fuel, latest-generation aircraft and electrification of ground operations. The Airbus A350 used for the flight consumes 25 per cent less fuel than its predecessor, and the aircraft was serviced by the first 100 per cent pure-electric refuelling truck, developed in France with Total expertise, and all of the ground support equipment used by Air France was fully electric powered.

Air France-KLM is a pioneer in testing sustainable aviation fuels. KLM made its first SAF-powered flight in 2009. Since then, the Group has multiplied the number of innovative programmes. Between 2014 and 2016, for example, it carried out 78 Air France flights powered by a 10 per cent SAF blend in collaboration with a Total affiliate. These tests showed that the use of SAF had no impact on the reliability of airline operations. Air France-KLM intends to strengthen its leadership in SAF in the years ahead, while contributing to research on future generations of aircraft.

In addition to this flight, Airbus is conducting several series of tests to certify airliners to fly with 100 per cent SAF in the coming decades. Airbus has also installed SAF refueling stations at its industrial facilities so that it can be used in production operations, as well as for aircraft deliveries. These installations contribute to Airbus’s ambition to decarbonise all of its industrial operations.

For this first flight, Benjamin Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM, stated: “For many years, the Air France-KLM Group has been committed to reducing its environmental footprint. Together with the renewal of our fleet, sustainable aviation fuels constitute our main lever in the medium-term for reducing our CO2 emissions per passenger/km by half by 2030. These two actions are therefore central to our strategy, alongside eco-piloting and achieving carbon-neutral ground operations. France currently has the opportunity to position itself as a leader in the production and use of sustainable fuels, and we are doing everything possible to contribute to this with our partners. Supporting the emergence of an economically viable French aviation biofuel sector for all the parties involved is a strategic priority for the country and the group.”

Augustin de Romanet, Chairman and CEO of Groupe ADP, added: “This first flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport is a symbol of our ambition to decarbonise air transport by integrating new sustainable air fuels into aircraft. The European air transport roadmap aims for net-zero emissions by 2050, and we are keen, as an airport operator, to support this energy transition and to embark, without delay, on the path of transforming our operation process and infrastructure.”

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