ABOVE: 10% and 30% blended SAF will now be available onsite 

Oxford Airport has received its first deliveries of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which will initially be offered in both 30% and 10% ratios to complement the airport’s existing jet fuel provision. Pilot magazine spoke to James Dillon-Godfray, Head of Business Development at London Oxford Airport, to learn more about the benefits biofuel can bring the airport and its users.

Typically produced from feedstocks such as used cooking oil, waste fats or other biomass sources, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that SAF can reduce CO2 emissions by 80%. It is a ‘drop-in’ fuel, meaning it can be readily mixed with existing kerosene-based products such as JET-A1, and is currently certified for blends of up to 50%.

“We’ve wanted to sell SAF for quite some time, indeed we are a bit late to the game, but we were approaching the renewal stage with our fuel supply partner on a new five-year contract last year and concluded it would be easier to wait,” highlighted Dillon-Godfrey. Indeed, several tenants and regular users have been asking whether the airport would sell SAF “for some time, including the likes of some of the F1 teams,” he continues; adding that “one major OEM has been asking [the airport] to supply SAF to them for every flight for a good year or more”.

Although it’s impossible to estimate exactly how much SAF the airport will sell and how quickly, there is ample storage available to scale up supply. Oxford airport’s new fuel farm (built in 2022) boasts three 85,000 litre tanks (which could be augmented by a further two), providing a total 425,000 litre onsite storage capacity, with the ‘drop-in’ SAF able to utilise existing infrastructure.

However, as every airport and FBO is finding, the limited global supply of SAF is currently hindering projected augmented uptake. “We can ramp-up volumes as and when supplied, albeit there are only a handful of producers – our fuel partner WFS Corp (World Fuel Services) acquires ours from Neste in Ghent, Belgium, which mixes a broad variety of sources from feedstocks to waste oils,” explains Dillon-Godfrey. However, it does have to be transported in 34,000 litre containers from Belgium by road: “a downside, but there’s no alternative”.

Oxford Airport’s JET-A1 is currently 100.5 pence per litre and the 30% ratio (biofuel mix) SAF blend is 200.5 pence per litre, essentially double the cost. “It should go down as volumes increase, but for now that’s similar delta to what you’ll see for instance at Farnborough,” he adds.

Crucially, Dillon-Godfrey adds that “almost every [flying] school we see now is using diesel-engined aircraft, typically Diamonds but also Robins and Cessnas with retrofittable Continental diesel engines vs. the Austro types. They essentially use half the fuel of their Avgas counterparts and benefit on top from JET-A1 being half the cost of Avgas too”. Additionally, Oxford Airport also hosts one of the largest diesel-engine MROs in Europe: Triple J Aircraft Engineering, a Diamond Platinum Service Centre.

“We think offering SAF… is one part of the sustainability jigsaw. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a step forward,” concludes Dillon-Godfrey, highlighting the variety of new companies involved in other areas of aviation hosted at Oxford. “Collectively, all those different technologies combined will get us closer to having more sustainable aviation from the smallest to largest aircraft types”.