Fuel supplier Shell Aviation and biofuel distributor SkyNRG have begun providing sustainable aviation fuel to Finnair, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) under a long-term collaboration agreement announced in May.

The fuel is being provided by World Energy, formerly AltAir Fuels, from its Paramount refinery in Los Angeles. World Energy is already supplying biofuel to United Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport under a three-year offtake agreement that began in 2016.

The HEFA-SPK fuel (for hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids synthetic paraffinic kerosene) is produced from used cooking oil. The biofuel is approved for use in aircraft in blends up to 50% with conventional jet fuel, but is being used in lower blends because of limited availability. The Paramount facility is currently the only sustainable aviation fuel refinery in the world.

The fuel is supplied through the existing SFO refueling infrastructure and can be used by airlines without requiring technical modification to their current fleets, the airport said. SFO announced in September it had signed a memorandum of understanding with a group of eight airlines and fuel producers to work cooperatively to expand the use of sustainable aviation fuel.

The four carriers—United, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Cathay Pacific—represent nearly 70% of all flights at SFO, while the four fuel producers include the airport’s two primary suppliers, Chevron and Shell, along with biofuel developers Neste and LanzaTech.

SFO is working to identify the supply chain and infrastructure required to enable this expansion. The airport anticipates increased interest after the California Air Resources Board ruled in September to allow sustainable aviation fuel to be included under the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. California is the first state to offer any incentives for the carbon benefits of aviation biofuels. 

The initial phase of the Shell and SkyNRG arrangement is intended to pave the way for longer term, more resilient supply chains for sustainable aviation fuels and reduce the carbon emissions of flights from SFO and other airports, the partners said. Shell provides fuel at 850 airports in 32 countries and SkyNRG was founded in 2010 by KLM to develop the market for sustainable aviation fuel. 

Graham Warwick, Graham.warwick@aviationweek.com