22 Dec 2021 22:42

S7 Airlines performs first flight in Russia using biofuel

DOMODEDOVO AIRPORT, Moscow region. Dec 22 (Interfax) - S7 Airlines has carried out the first flight in Russia using biofuel.

Fueled with the SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) mix based on organic compounds and conventional aviation fuel, the new A320neo (the 37th on S7's fleet) departed the Airbus manufacturing facility in Toulouse and landed at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Wednesday, an Interfax correspondent reported from the welcoming ceremony at the airport.

The plane did not carry passengers. The share of biofuel in the mix, according to S7, was the maximum of 10% that a fuel company in Toulouse can provide. This reduced carbon emissions during the flight by 7% (1.7 tonnes), the airline said.

"This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that such flights are realistic, and the future of environmentally-friendly air services belongs to them," the S7 press service quoted the group's CEO and co-owner Tatyana Fileva.

"It is extremely important to develop a legal basis to certify SAF in Russia and use it on regular flights. On our part, we stand ready to be actively involved in this process. And certainly, we hope that our partners in the fuel sector will be able to launch production in the mid-term," she said.

Earlier in December, S7 signed a declaration on setting up an association of SAF developers and producers with Gazprom Neft , Airbus, Aeroflot , Volga-Dnepr, the Zhukovsky Institute National Research Center, and the Federal State Research Institute of Civil Aviation. The alliance participants set the objective of carrying out the first flight using biofuel produced in Russia no later than 2024. The Eurasian SAF Alliance's ultimate goal is to develop a roadmap for using biofuel in Russia "to achieve carbon neutrality within the next few decades," the press release said.

Julien Franiatte, head of Airbus Russia, said all Airbus planes have been certified to use 50% of SAF, and this share will be brought to 100% by the end of this decade.

Airbus has already carried out over 75 deliveries using SAF, and "a number of airlines globally are using this fuel for commercial flights," he said.

That said, the volume of SAF in use still remains insignificant on a global scale, Franiatte said.

S7 expects to start commercial flights using biofuel "in the mid-term", and that is why the company has become part of the Eurasian SAF Alliance, Olesya Mashkova, S7 Group's deputy CEO for economy and finance, told reporters.

"However, this depends more not on airlines but on our partners, namely fuel companies, which should be ready to start producing this type of fuel [in Russia] and then selling it," Mashkova said.

In addition to Gazprom Neft, LUKOIL may join the alliance as well, she said.

Fileva has said earlier that S7 Group plans to negotiate biofuel supplies with its home airport, Domodedovo. There are only several airports globally where SAF is available, none of them in Russia, she said.

On the whole, biofuel production is insufficient now for its mass supplies to airlines, but when such supplies are arranged, this will pose another problem by making plane tickets more expensive than those on flights using conventional fuel, she said.

At the present time, biofuel is more expensive than conventional "three to four times, depending on the fuel type and supplier, and in some countries, it's up to eight times more expensive," Mashkova said.

The Fit for 55 legislation presented by the European Union last summer stipulates that, starting 2025, all fuel used for fueling planes at European airports will have to contain at least 2% of SAF. As estimated by VTB Capital analyst Yelena Sakhnova, with the current price for biofuel, Russian airlines might spend an extra 3 billion rubles in 2025, which is equivalent to 90 rubles per each ticket on EU flights. By 2030, the aviation industry's costs will grow by 11 billion rubles, which is equivalent to 250 rubles per each ticket.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is developing the CORSIA program, under which all its participants would have to compensate for emissions from their international flights starting 2027 if they exceed the 2019 levels. Starting 2027, the Russian aviation industry's costs to comply with CORSIA might amount to 20 billion to 30 billion rubles a year, VTB Capital said.