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Google and Microsoft to Invest in Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Google and Microsoft to Invest in Sustainable Aviation Fuel


Two of the world's largest technology companies announced plans to invest in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) this month. Google and Microsoft will contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of the aviation sector, which accounts for 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. SAF is widely regarded as one of the most feasible ways to make aviation more sustainable in the short term.




The aviation industry has set a goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. There are a variety of stakeholders across the public and private sectors who are part of this commitment. These include airlines, national governments, and international organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).


Photo: Andrew Leff | AeroXplorer


On August 14, Google became the latest company to join the Avelia program powered by American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) and Shell Aviation. Avelia is a blockchain-enabled service that allows businesses to purchase SAF to use when flying for business. The service, which currently provides around one million gallons of SAF, has enough fuel to cover 15,000 flights between London and New York.


Google joined Avelia as part of the company's plans to achieve carbon neutrality across its operations and supply chain by 2030. Google will join other companies in a range of industries, including airlines and financial services firms.


Photo: Daniel Mena | AeroXplorer


Michael Terrell, Google's Director of Climate and Energy, said: "The use of SAF will play a critical role in helping the aviation sector on its path to decarbonize. Joining Amex GBT's sustainable aviation fuel program further represents Google's continued efforts to accelerate the global transition to a carbon-free future."




Andrew Crawley, President of Amex GBT, added: "Business travel is a crucial passenger segment for aviation, accounting for around 15% of air travel globally and generating around 40% of revenues. To have Google join our growing SAF programme demonstrates how corporate collaboration can accelerate aviation's transition to net zero and enable more sustainable travel."


Photo: Mitchell Roetting | AeroXplorer


Google was not the only large technology company to announce a commitment to decarbonizing aviation. On the same day, Microsoft and the International Airlines Group (IAG) announced plans to purchase 14,700 tons of SAF. IAG is an Anglo-Spanish company that owns major European airlines such as British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia.




IAG views the purchase as a key part of its goal to have 10% of its fuel come from more sustainable sources by 2030. Meanwhile, Microsoft sees SAF as a way to reduce Scope 3 emissions and become carbon negative by 2030. Scope 3 refers to emissions not produced by a company itself or resulting from activities involving assets owned or controlled by them. This includes emissions from air freight and business travel.


Photo: Hunter Carrico | AeroXplorer


Jonathon Counsell, IAG's Head of Sustainability, said: "Strong commercial partnerships like this will help stimulate the global investment needed to build and sustain a commercially viable SAF market."




Julia Fidler, Microsoft's Environmental Sustainability Fuel and Materials Decarbonization Lead, added: "This agreement represents a new milestone in SAF purchasing that will allow Microsoft to address emissions from both our business travel and freight for our cloud supply chain, while helping to fund future SAF development and scale the market as a whole."


Photo: Julian Waller | AeroXplorer


The SAF will be made from used cooking oil and food waste at a Phillips 66 Limited refinery in the United Kingdom. IAG said that the SAF is sufficient to power approximately 300 Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights between London and Seattle. The SAF will be supplied to IAG's member airlines operating at Heathrow Airport (LHR) and Gatwick Airport (LGW) in London. Furthermore, this purchase adds to the $865 million in SAF investments IAG has already made.


SAF is attractive to companies since it lowers carbon emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional petroleum-powered jet fuel. However, SAF is currently in low supply, with less than 1% of all flights using SAF as of 2023. Companies across industries including energy, technology, and aviation would like to solve that problem by investing in SAF. This collaboration means aviation is well on track to achieve net zero by 2050.

George Mwangi
Aviation writer based in Washington, DC. Visited 21 countries on thousands of miles of flights.

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