Airbus and partners embark on SAF deliveries in China

A China Eastern Airbus A320 at Tianjin surrounded by people celebrating its departure.
Photo Credit: Airbus

LONDON – Airbus has celebrated a step towards sustainable aircraft operation in China, with a China Eastern Airlines A320neo operating on a five percent sustainable fuel blend.

The China Eastern Airlines Airbus A320neo took off from its Airbus Delivery Centre in Tianjin this week, fuelled with a blend of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). 

What is SAF?

SAF is a sustainably-produced aviation fuel made from feedstocks ranging from used fat, oil and grease to municipal and forestry waste.

SAF is effectively a carbon-reduction solution that is available for use in aircraft and helicopters operating today. It is a “drop-in” fuel because it can be blended up to 50% with conventional jet fuel without any engine modification required. 

Today, there are a variety of SAF types, which are produced based on different feedstock sources. Examples include the following: 

Bio-mass based
  • Renewable raw material, and various wastes and residues are the most common source of feedstock for SAF. 
    • Used fat, oil and grease
    • Municipal waste
    • Agricultural and forestry waste and residues
  • Alternative sources synthesised with green hydrogen can produce SAF through power-to-liquid technology. 
    • Captured carbon 
    • Waste gases from industrial processes

Compared to fossil jet fuel, SAF has been demonstrated to result in an up to 80% reduction in CO2 emissions across the entire SAF lifecycle. Therefore, it is considered as a key enabler to contribute to the decarbonization of aviation. 

The SAF for the Airbus delivery flights in China is produced and sourced locally from used cooking oil by SINOPEC Zhenhai Refining & Chemical Company, a state-owned manufacturer in China. It is the first batch of Chinese SAF made by the only certified Chinese facility.

Airbus statement

“The first SAF delivery flight of Airbus aircraft in Tianjin marks a historic milestone for Airbus and particularly for us in China,” said George XU, Airbus EVP & Airbus China CEO. “It is a great step towards our vision of contributing to sustainable aviation as a long-term reliable partner in China.”

“Thanks to the joint effort and the consensus on sustainability between us and our partners, we will be able to offer such sustainable solutions to all customers taking delivery from our Tianjin facilities.”

“Going forward, we also aim to partner with more Airbus operators in China to fly commercially with SAF to further support the green aviation strategy in China.”

Currently, all Airbus commercial aircraft are capable of flying with an up to 50 percent SAF blend mixed with kerosene and are targeted to be capable for 100 percent use in flight by the end of this decade. Since March 2021, Airbus has successfully accomplished 100 percent test flights on A319neo, A350 and A380 aircraft. 

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