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From plans into planes: Air bp brings sustainable aviation fuel to UK customers

Release date:
31 August 2023
What does used cooking oil have to do with the future of flying? More than you may think. It’s used to make SAF – an important tool for lowering lifecycle carbon emissions from aviation
🕒 3 min read | 📰 News| 💡 Why it matters
More people than ever are flying and that means more flights and more emissions unless something changes. One change is sustainable aviation fuel, also known as SAF. SAF first hit the market in 2016 and has fewer lifecycle carbon emissions than the traditional jet fuel it replaces. 
Before Air bp could start selling this alternative fuel to UK customers, the right facilities and infrastructure had to be in place. Storage tanks, blending equipment, pipes and more were needed and Air bp looked to the team at a terminal that was already distributing traditional jet fuel to customers around the UK. 

Repurposing infrastructure

Instead of starting from scratch, Air bp was able get into action faster by repurposing some of its current infrastructure at one of its terminals to enable SAF production. This is done by blending traditional jet fuel with something called synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK), which is typically made from hydrogenated vegetable oil that has been used previously for cooking. Once blended, SAF is stored in the same way as traditional jet fuel.


“It’s about making the most of what you’ve got and using a bit of imagination,” says Andrew Glendinning, bp’s aviation expert technologist. “We added functionality improvements to the infrastructure, including valve replacements, new pipes and upgrades to our fuel storage tanks. These changes mean that we’ve now got capacity for blending several grades of sustainable aviation fuel.”


The upgrades to the fuel storage tanks were particularly noteworthy. Previously used for waste, the repurposing effort meant the team was able to add storage capacity for SAF and SPK to the site. The improvements cost significantly less than it would have to build new storage tanks.


Transferring skills

Once work on the site was complete, Air bp was ready to start shipping SPK into the terminal, where it can be blended – up to 50% – with traditional jet fuel.


“I think that this has long been one of the most exciting jet fuel terminals in the world – every day is different,” Andrew says. “In just two years, SAF has become a regular part of our day-to-day business. The team has seamlessly transferred their skills to blend this alternative fuel and they’re proud to be working towards decarbonization.”

‘Plans into action’ 

SAF blended by Air bp is transported from the terminal to customers such as Rolls-Royce. Customers can use these blends in today’s aircraft with no engine modifications needed – and are doing so in freight flights and as part of the fuel mix used in passenger flights.

“It’s a great example of bp turning plans into action. We still supply traditional fuels to fulfil the bulk of today’s needs – and – we’re supplying SAF to provide alternative lower carbon options to the aviation industry.” 


Andrew Glendinning, aviation expert technologist, bp


It’s just the beginning, explains Andrew. In the two years since this terminal started blending, demand for SAF has steadily grown. 
“It’s a stepping-stone towards big change,” he says. “It’s a great example of bp turning plans into action. We still supply traditional fuels to fulfil the bulk of today’s needs – and – we’re supplying SAF to provide alternative lower carbon options to the aviation industry.”


💡 Why it matters

According to the bp Energy Outlook, global passenger kilometres double from 2019 to reach 12 trillion a year by 20501, so it is essential that the world acts to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions. Currently, SAF – which can typically yield up to 80% lifecycle carbon emissions savings relative to the fossil-derived fuel it replaces2 – is a key available and viable way to help decarbonize aviation. 


To fulfil aviation’s net zero commitment, IATA currently estimates that SAF will account for 65% of aviation’s carbon savings in 20503. That would require an annual production capacity of 449 billion litres (compared with 125 million litres today).


Bioenergy is one of bp’s five transition growth engines – and biofuels like SAF are a key part of our strategy to support aviation industry ambitions to get to net zero. Our ambition is to be the energy partner of choice for such decarbonization initiatives.


We are planning major biofuels projects involving a multi-billion-dollar investment across five existing bp facilities – our refineries at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Lingen in Germany, Castellón in Spain and Cherry Point in the US, as well as our import terminal at Kwinana in Australia – with the aim for all five to start up before 2030. These projects are expected to make a significant contribution towards bp’s aim to produce around 100,000 barrels of biofuels per day by 2030.


1 bp Energy Outlook 2023
2What is SAF (Air bp)
3 IATA: Incentives Needed to Increase SAF Production






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