The first Emirates flights operating with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) provided by Shell Aviation have taken off from Dubai International Airport (DXB). Image Credit: Emirates

The first Emirates flights operating with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) have taken off from Dubai International Airport (DXB), the airline announced on Monday.

Emirates’ flight EK 412 bound for Sydney on October 24 was among the first to operate with SAF, said Emirates. Shell Aviation, the fuel supplier, provided 315,000 gallons of blended SAF for use at the airline’s hub in Dubai, enabling the airline to power several missions over the last few weeks.

SAF, made from non-petroleum feedstocks, is an alternative fuel vital for the global aviation industry to reach its net-zero goal by 2050. However, its adoption is still in its early stages.

However, the blended SAF used by Emirates comprised a ratio of 40 percent neat SAF and 60 percent conventional Jet A-1 fuel. “The chemical characteristics at this ratio are identical to conventional jet fuel and can seamlessly be integrated into the existing airport fuel infrastructure as well as in the engines of the entire Emirates fleet with no modifications required,” said Emirates.

Emirates' first flights with sustainable aviation fuel from Dubai Emirates

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, said, “We’re pushing ahead with proactive measures to enable more sustainable flying now and in the future, and powering flights from our Dubai hub is just one of the steps we’ve taken to reduce emissions and help our customers minimize their own carbon footprint.”

However, Clark added, “We still have a long road ahead, and we hope that our partnership with Shell Aviation inspires more producers to address the supply gaps and make SAF readily available in major hubs like Dubai, as well as other points on our network.”

Shell, Emirates partnership

Emirates signed an agreement with Shell Aviation in October for the supply of more than 300,000 gallons of blended sustainable aviation fuel for use at its hub in Dubai, making it the first time that the clean fuel is supplied through the Dubai International Airport's fuelling system.

Jan Toschka, President of Shell Aviation, said, "This first-ever supply of SAF to Emirates in Dubai is an example of what can be achieved when different parts of the aviation value chain come together.”

Emirates and Shell are collaborating to reduce travel emissions for Shell's business trips, and Emirates is using the Avelia platform to track SAF's environmental benefits, the airline said. The companies are also exploring personalized offerings for corporate travellers using technology like New Distribution Capabilities (NDC).

In its neat form, SAF reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent over its life cycle compared to conventional jet fuel. Emirates has also been tracking the delivery, use, and environmental benefits of SAF through Avelia, Shell Aviation’s blockchain-powered book and claim solution.

This year, the airline also announced the establishment of a $200 million fund for research and development (R&D) projects focused on reducing the impact of fossil fuels in commercial aviation, representing one of the biggest single commitments of any airline to sustainability.

Emirates also operated the region’s first 100 percent SAF-powered demonstration flight in January. The airline first began using SAF in 2017, when it uplifted it on a flight from Chicago, and since then, flights from Stockholm, Paris, Lyon, and Oslo have also operated with blended SAF.