Meet Tom Parsons, our biojet commercial development manager. Based at our UK office in Sunbury on Thames, Tom is looking forward to marking ten years with the BP Group this September.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
I work with producers of biojet to secure supply for Air BP’s customers, which requires a combination of technology evaluation and commercial negotiation. I also do a lot of networking within BP, both to ensure that we support new producers as much as possible and that we identify all potential opportunities from a BP Group perspective. Finally, I support Air BP’s sales and marketing teams with conversations relating to biojet and other low carbon opportunities.
What role will biojet play in the transition to a lower carbon future?
Aviation will be the hardest mode of transport to decarbonise – we need major technological advances before electrical planes become viable and aviation cannot take advantage of increasing renewable power in the grid – so biojet has an important role to play. To ensure a lower carbon future, we need a combination of ever-improving aircraft efficiency, new aircraft designs and the substitution of conventional jet fuel with lower carbon biojet.
How is Air BP supporting customers with the adoption of biojet?
Today, there is only very limited production of biojet, but we are working hard to bring larger volumes to the market. We are supporting potential new producers of biojet either through investment, as with Fulcrum BioEnergy (where we invested US$30m), or by providing long-term off-take agreements. We currently supply biojet at Oslo and Bergen airports in Norway and Halmstad airport in Sweden.
What are the biggest challenges we need to overcome with regards to the supply of biojet?
In the short-term, it is a production incentive issue. The companies that can make biojet can also produce renewable diesel, and they collect higher value from doing the latter because of the incentives available for blending biofuels in ground transport. That said, several countries are now beginning to make the same incentives available for blending biojet, and this will certainly help encourage supply.
Long-term, the biggest challenge will be the supply of sustainable feedstocks to turn into biojet. There are risks associated with growing feedstocks for biofuel production as food crops could be displaced and require new agricultural land, thereby removing any net carbon reduction. Wastes and residues are the most sustainable feedstock options, but their supply is limited. We must identify feedstocks that are both sustainable and scalable.
What are you focusing on in 2018?
We are working with Geneva Airport to support the biojet project they are launching this December. The initiative will replace 1% of all jet fuel used at the airport with biojet for a five-year period. It is exciting because everyone using the airport will be involved in some form. It is a great way to demonstrate the safety and suitability of biojet to a wide variety of stakeholders.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I have two young children, so I spend a lot of time with them – I coach my son’s football and rugby teams, which is great fun. I also play the trumpet in a local jazz band – it was through music that I met my wife – so that is also a really important part of my life.