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Lufthansa, DB Schenker challenge industry to support alternative jet fuel

Companies to offer carbon credits for cargo bookings next year

Lufthansa Cargo paid for a full tank of sustainable jet fuel to get credit for a carbon neutral cargo flight. (Photo: Oliver Rösler/Lufthansa Cargo)

Lufthansa Cargo (LSE: LN) and third-party logistics provider DB Schenker are using a purchase of sustainable aviation fuel as a signal to customers and logistics companies that they should do more to protect the climate by moving away from fossil fuels in aviation.

On Monday, a Boeing 777 freighter operated by Lufthansa Cargo completed the first commercial cargo flight in which the trip’s fuel requirements were covered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), amortized over time through other flights that use a mix of biofuel and jet fuel. DB Schenker enabled the first carbon-neutral cargo flight, chartering the aircraft to transport goods from Siemens Healthineers AG and other businesses from Frankfurt International Airport to Shanghai.

The companies purchased a full planeload’s worth of SAF and then fed it into the refueling system at Frankfurt Airport so that each aircraft subsequently refueled has a small blend of SAF, enabling them to claim credit for a carbon-neutral flight. By using SAF as a drop-in fuel, no adjustments to aircraft engines are required.

Lufthansa’s cargo division and DB Schenker last month jointly committed to reduce their carbon footprint in aviation by promoting sustainable aviation fuels, sharing best practices for protecting the climate and encouraging government and industry to work together to expand production and infrastructure for alternative power. As part of their environmental initiative, they plan to regularly offer greenhouse gas-neutral airfreight as a product for shippers beginning next summer.

“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,” Lufthansa Cargo CEO Peter Gerber said. 

Sustainable aviation fuel is essentially synthetic kerosene, currently produced from biomass such as recycled vegetable oil and cooking oils. During engine combustion, the only CO2 released is that which was previously removed from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Companies are also developing non-plant-based renewable fuels, including a process called power-to-liquid based on renewable electricity, water and CO2. 

“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,” said DB Schenker CEO Jochen Thewes.

DB Schenker and Lufthansa Cargo are also participating in 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.

Earlier this year, DHL Express operated a special eco-flight designed to maximize fuel economy and minimize the fuel impact. Amazon purchased 6 million gallons of aviation fuel made from SAF.

The International Air Transport Association has set a goal to reduce industry-wide emissions 50% by 2050.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch. 

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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]