Sustainable fuels

In spite of the current comparatively low fuel price environment, Cathay Pacific remains committed to the biofuel agenda as part of our long-term strategy in reducing our total climate change impact. We work with relevant partners to identify sustainable biofuels, which meet or exceed the energy characteristics of kerosene and offer substantial improvement to emissions performance. However, we are well aware that such fuel must be produced in a sustainable way.

We are a member of various organisations, such as the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), the FAA Centre of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels, and the Commercial Alternative Aviation Fuels Initiative (CAAFI). We all share the common desire to accelerate the research, development, and commercialisation of sustainable aviation biofuels.

Sustainable fuel strategy

Since the appointment of a dedicated Cathay Pacific Biofuel Manager in 2011, we have had a robust sustainable aviation fuels strategy in place and are progressing several projects, a number of which focus on the use of waste and residues as a source of feedstock for the production of fuels.

Cathay Pacific is the first airline to have invested in a sustainable biofuel developer. We began our investment in the US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc. in 2014. The investment will help us work towards achieving an industry target of carbon-neutral growth in 2020. Fulcrum is a world pioneer in the development and commercialisation of converting municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation fuel.

We have negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum for an initial 375 million US gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years, which will meet all the airline’s technical requirements, specifications and sustainability criteria.

First Cathay Pacific flight powered by biofuels

The first Cathay Pacific flight powered by biofuels arrived at HKIA in May. This flight was operated on a newly delivered Airbus A350-900 and was the world’s longest biofuel flight to date. The following 21 delivery flights from Toulouse will also use a 10% blend of biofuel. This biofuel is made from sustainable sugars, using a process of fermentation whereby modified yeast produces hydrocarbons that can be processed into jet fuel. Not only does this fuel have a lower life cycle CO2 than fossil fuel, but biofuel also burns cleaner. The intent of using biofuel on these flights is for Cathay to become accustomed to flying on renewable fuel as we move closer to larger volumes becoming available over the next three to five years.

The combination of a modern fuel-efficient aircraft and the use of biofuels will result in some of the lowest net CO2 emissions for commercial aircraft in service today.

Jeff Ovens

Bio Fuel Procurement Manager

Construction of Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc.

Construction of the initial phase of Fulcrum’s first commercial scale plant was completed in May 2016. This feedstock pre-processing facility will sort and separate waste originally destined for landfill and process them into a form suitable for bio jet fuel production. With the capacity to process 50 tonnes per hour, the facility automatically removes recyclable items such as metal and plastic for onward recycling and shreds the remaining non-recyclable waste into small pieces. Construction of phase two comprising the fuel production facility is scheduled to begin in 2017.