Lufthansa Cargo and DB Schenker recently launched what the companies described as “the first regular carbon-neutral cargo flight connection in history,” from Frankfurt, Germany, to Shanghai.
The first of the weekly flights took place on April 1 with the takeoff of a Boeing 777F.
“As of now, carbon neutral supply chains are also feasible with air freight,” Jochen Thewes, CEO of DB Schenker, said in a press release. “Our weekly flights between Frankfurt and Shanghai are the kick-off of a new era.”
The companies are mixing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with conventional jet fuel to save around 174 metric tons of kerosene on every flight, according to the release. Remaining emissions will be accounted for by investing in carbon offsets.
“Since SAF is the first real alternative to fossil aviation fuel and the key to climate-neutral air traffic, further research and provision of the fuel is essential,” Julia Leukel, spokesperson for Lufthansa Cargo, told FreightWaves.
Because of technological barriers, aircraft can run on fuel composed of 50% or less SAF. Frankfurt airport’s admixture depends on the SAF quantities fed into the refueling system, according to Leukel. She said the fuel used for this route is currently about 2% SAF.
SAF is produced using biomass waste from feedstocks, agricultural residues and waste cooking oils, according to the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). The ATAG said SAF’s greenhouse gas emissions can be up to 80% lower than those of traditional fuels throughout their life cycle.
However, using SAF can have a hefty financial impact. Leukel said SAF costs three to six times more than regular kerosene. And that’s not the only barrier to its use.
SAF is produced in relatively small quantities, so it is not sufficiently available for the industry to make a meaningful shift. However, if production of SAF ramps up, economies of scale could drive the price down, making SAF more accessible and affordable.
“Today, we jointly launched the world’s first regular sustainable cargo flight connection. This paves the way for many more connections of this kind. We are counting on the determination of our industry and the dedication of consumers to get this off the ground together,” Dorothea von Boxberg, CEO of Lufthansa Cargo, said in a statement.
During the summer flight schedule, the companies estimate, 16,200 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be avoided from direct combustion in the engine.
To offset remaining emissions from flights, and SAF production and transportation, Leukel noted that Lufthansa Cargo is partnering with myclimate for a reforestation project in Nicaragua. DB Schenker is partnering with atmosfair on several offsetting projects, she added.
“We aim to offer DB Schenker — and in the near future also other forwarders — access to sustainable aviation fuel that allows our clients to offset their CO2 emissions,” Leukel said.