Watch Now

Amazon to power cargo jets with sustainable fuel

Amazon Air is buying biofuels to reduce the carbon emissions of its aircraft. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Amazon’s air cargo operation is contributing to meet the company’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2040 with an agreement to purchase up to six million gallons of jet fuel made from renewable sources.

The fuel blend, which includes feedstock of agricultural waste fats and oils, has the ability to reduce Amazon Air’s carbon emissions by 22%, Sarah Rhodes, vice president of Amazon Global Air said on a video describing the initiative and showing Prime planes being loaded with cargo and refueled

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) said Wednesday on its blog site that the one-year deal with Shell Aviation will help build demand for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). The jet fuel is produced by World Energy, a large supplier of biofuels in North America. Amazon will add it to the fuel supply at select airports where it operates.

Amazon earlier this year tested the sustainable aviation fuel on two flights.

“We’re already reducing carbon across our air network, from our ground operations—where we were the first to use electric main deck loaders in North America—to our fleet and network design.,” Rhodes added in the blog post. “Using sustainable aviation fuel is a natural next step, and one that calls for continued action. We encourage other companies to join us in the effort to engage with suppliers to create more fuel alternatives.”

In addition to replacing diesel-powered ground-service equipment, Amazon has also added solar rooftop panels at new regional air hubs. The company said it will continue to explore how to make dedicated air operations—both in the air and on the ground—even more sustainable.

Promoting Sustainability

Critics say Amazon’s business model of delivering packages to individual homes is environmentally unsustainable and produces high levels of pollution. The company consumes vast amounts of power for its ground and air fleets, fulfillment centers and cloud-based data centers. 

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos made the Climate Pledge last September, putting Amazon on a path to decarbonization that is 10 years ahead of the Paris agreement goal of 2050.

In June, Amazon announced the launch of a $2 billion fund to invest in industries and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. It also said it would accelerate use of 100% renewable energy to power operations. The retail giant previously committed to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from start-up Rivian.

The airline industry says it remains committed to investing in development of SAF despite the financial challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. New jet fuel standards are expected to increase the use of cleaner-burning fuels. 

Some aviation biofuels can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%.

In May 2019, United Airlines renewed its contract with World Energy for the purchase of up to 10 million gallons of SAF over the next two years. United has used the fuel since 2016 in all of its flights departing Los Angeles International Airport.

Clean Fuel Canada

Canadian leisure carrier Air Transat on Wednesday announced it will buy large amounts of biofuel produced by the SAF+ Consortium, which is finalizing the fabrication of a pilot plant in Montreal East to make kerosene from carbon dioxide (CO2). The process consists in capturing CO2 produced from large industrial emitters and converting it to synthetic jet fuel by using a process called Fisher Tropsch (FT). It is estimated that SAF+ kerosene will have an 80% lower carbon footprint than conventional jet fuel.

In May, Swiss International Air Lines began cooperation with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich on accelerating the market launch of SAF. Institute researchers have developed processes that make it possible to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and, together with water and concentrated sunlight, convert it into a synthesized gas that can be used to produce jet fuel that only releases as much CO2  as was previously extracted from the atmosphere. The parties will decide at a later date on how much SAF Swiss will buy to support future demonstration projects.

Click here for more FreightWaves stories by Eric Kulisch.


Amazon targets climate change with $2B VC fund

Delta explores forest residue as jet fuel

Amazon Air picks San Bernardino airport for western hub

Boeing to offer biofuel blend to airlines, with Alaska Airlines as first partner

Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]