Sustainable Aviation Fuel for Santa’s Sleigh, Lufthansa Cargo delivers packages, cargo, now with biofuel



It’s December 1st and many of us are in holiday mode, maybe purchased something on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday or today, Giving Tuesday, to have gifts delivered to loved ones that maybe we won’t be gathering with in person this year. Shipping has probably never been so important or in the forefront of so many people’s minds as it is this year.

But what about the CO2 emissions? The greenhouse gases? The fuel used to ship all those gifts around the world?

In today’s Digest, how a cargo flight took off for the first time in commercial with sustainable aviation fuel, Lufthansa Cargo’s future plans for biofuel on cargo planes, an exclusive Digest interview, and more.

Lufthansa Cargo and DB Schenker start first CO2-neutral freight flights

First, today’s news that over the weekend, a cargo flight took off for the first time in commercial aviation, whose fuel requirements will be completely covered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Lufthansa Cargo’s Boeing 777F took off from Frankfurt to Shanghai at 8:10 a.m. local time under flight number LH8406 and then returned to the Hessian metropolis.

This first CO2-neutral freight flight is made possible by a cooperation between DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo. The logistics service provider and the air freight company will transport goods from Siemens Healthineers AG, among others, on this flight. DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo are committed to sustainable air transport and agreed in November 2020 to exchange views on environmental issues and to jointly promote them – including the move away from fossil fuels in air freight transport.

In addition, DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo are also using a reforestation project to compensate for the CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases that result from the production of the biomass, processing and transport of the SAF. This ensures that the flights are completely greenhouse gas neutral overall.

In an exclusive Digest interview, Jacqueline Casini, Senior Director Communications, Marketing & Corporate Responsibility at Lufthansa Cargo said, “The reforestation project is located in Nicaragua near an important watershed that supplies one of the ecologically most valuable estuaries in Nicaragua – the Estero Real. The local community is involved in the reforestation of the region. The project aims to reduce CO2 emissions and also helps to preserve the region with its unprecedented biodiversity. The project area covers 86 square kilometres and gives rural communities control over their ecological resources. The flight will therefore be greenhouse gas neutral.”

The SAF used can be added to conventional kerosene as a so-called drop-in fuel and is therefore practical and suitable for everyday use without the need for adjustments to the aircraft and the supply logistics chain. For this reason, a quantity of SAF corresponding to the fuel requirements for the flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai and back is fed into the refuelling system at Frankfurt Airport. Each aircraft subsequently refuelled from the fuel depot receives and physically consumes a small amount of SAF. However, the CO2 avoidance achieved in this way is credited in full to Lufthansa Cargo and DB Schenker.

This is the first step in a joint effort agreed in November to move away from fossil fuels in aviation. The aim of the cooperation is, among other things, the regular exchange of information, the promotion of environmentally friendly technologies such as SAF. DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo combine the start of their first CO2-neutral flights with a call to shippers, logistics providers, airfreight carriers and also politicians to work together on expanding production and infrastructure and thus improving the availability of sustainable aviation fuel. Both companies are leading the way and will regularly offer CO2-neutral air freight as a product for the shipping industry from the summer flight schedule onwards.

Casini told The Digest that they purchased the sustainable aviation fuel from Compensaid. And through Compensaid, Lufthansa has created the possibility for customers to purchase SAF/Biofuel directly.

As to why Lufthansa Cargo is looking to biofuels now, Casini told the Digest that “DB Schenker is our customer, a cargo forwarder who bought this flight and made it therefore possible. They offered this green flight to their customers. Merck and Siemens Healthineers were their customers on our flight from Frankfurt to Shanghai fully done with SAF. More and more customers ask for green logistic solutions. That’s why we created this offer.”

“For the routing Frankfurt (FRA) – Shanghai (PVG) – Frankfurt (FRA) the fuel requirement amounts to 174t,” said Casini. “This amount will be provided from Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The CO2 formed during the combustion of SAF corresponds exactly to the amount of CO2 that was removed from the atmosphere by the plant shortly before during its growth. However, other greenhouse gases are released in order to provide Sustainable Aviation Fuels, for example in the cultivation of biomass, processing and transport. These remaining emissions are offset through offsetting (certificates: Gold Standard and Plan Vivo).”

Reaction from the stakeholders

Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure Scheuer: “Even in the most severe crisis that has ever hit aviation, Lufthansa Cargo and DB Schenker are facing up to their responsibility for climate protection and are operating their first freight flight from Frankfurt to Shanghai entirely with sustainable alternative fuel. This is an important signal right now that the companies are looking to the future despite all the concerns and are taking important steps to make aviation more sustainable.”

“With this flight we are committed to the increased research and use of SAF so that sufficient quantities of the alternative fuel will be available in the future. In addition to investments in a modern freighter fleet, our commitment to this CO2-neutral flight also contributes to the United Nations’ ‘Climate Action’ sustainability goal. Because Lufthansa Cargo takes its corporate responsibility very seriously and is actively taking measures to meet this responsibility and relieve the environment,” explained Peter Gerber, CEO of Lufthansa Cargo.

“We are already further ahead than many think when it comes to climate protection in air freight. We can demonstrate this with the first CO2-neutral freight flight in history,” says Jochen Thewes, CEO of DB Schenker. “With the start of the 2021 summer flight schedule, DB Schenker will offer greenhouse gas-neutral air freight as a regular product. As a logistics provider, DB Schenker is the link between the loading industry and the airlines in order to actually implement climate protection in air freight. I am convinced that there is a great demand for this type of green transport and I am looking forward to seeing who will follow suit,” continues Jochen Thewes.

“Getting our medical technology systems and important spare parts to where they are urgently needed and always being a reliable partner for our customers and their patients is our top priority. We are therefore all the more pleased that our logistics partners are sending an important signal and want to make air freight transport more climate-friendly in future. This is an important step towards sustainable transport routes,” says Dr. Frank Debus, Head of Customer Services Managed Logistics at Siemens Healthineers.

Future plans

In terms of the crystal ball of the future, Casini told The Digest “We plan to offer a flight on a regular basis using Sustainable Aviation Fuel from April 2021 onwards, when the Sommer flight plan starts. The routing depends on the customer demands for such green products.” So stay tuned for more SAF to be coming out of Lufthansa Cargo flights very soon and in the meantime here’s a toast of eggnog to deliveries and shipments being greener than ever, something Santa would be proud of.

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