Poland’s flag carrier LOT Polish Airlines announced on Thursday it had signed an agreement with multi-energy group PKN ORLEN for sustainable aviation fuel. The airline says the acquisition is part of its initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Destination ECO strategy.
PKN ORLEN is currently building a production facility in Plock by the Vistula river in central Poland, which will produce around 300,000 tonnes of SAF annually from 2025. This will be made using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) technology and is equivalent to 50% of the jet fuel currently produced by the company. It is unclear how much of this will be earmarked for LOT.
Rafal Milczarski, President and CEO of LOT Polish Airlines, commented on the agreement,
“We see the trust placed in us by our passengers as both an honour and an obligation. We not only want to provide them with the highest safety standards and comfortable air transportation. We also want make an important contribution to the preservation and protection of the environment. That is why I am very pleased about the cooperation with PKN ORLEN as the production of kerosene from renewable raw materials represents another initiative with which LOT Polish Airlines is reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The airline did not say how much SAF it had signed up for. Photo: LOT Polish Airlines
Joint implementation to match EU mandates
According to a previous agreement between the two parties signed in July this year, they will share their knowledge and experience in sustainable fuels and jointly run projects to implement SAF in civil aviation, in line with the EU’s FIT for 55 package and the ReFuelEU Aviation initiative.
Meanwhile, Daniel Obajtek, CEO and President of the PKN ORLEN Management Board, said on Thursday,
“The aviation industry is an excellent example of how the energy and fuel industry is changing. That is why we are developing and investing in clean, advanced products. According to our estimates, the share of sustainably produced fuels in aviation will amount to 3 percent in 2030. Accordingly, we see enormous potential for further growth in this area in line with our ORLEN2030 strategy.”
If SAF will account for 3% of fuel, that means 97% will still be fossil. Photo: Neste
80% reduction… but only 3% overall in a growing industry
SAF indeed has the potential to drastically reduce CO2 emissions from aviation and is predicted to grow to a $15 billion industry before the end of the decade. Many airlines have committed to using 10% SAF in their operations by 2030. However, perspectives from the market and environmental viewpoints differ. The 3% mentioned by the PKN ORLEN Chief Executive may be a significant business opportunity, but when it comes to reducing emissions it comes up terribly short.
It is also easy to understand why climate activists become frustrated with airline advertising that promises “carbon-neutral” flying, given that even with passengers paying a premium for SAF today, in seven years’ time, 97% of all jet fuel will still be fossil-based. Investments in sustainable fuels are crucial. However, with the projected growth of aviation as a whole, it really is just a ‘drop-in’ in the pond.