Norway seeks SAF development leadership

Bernie Baldwin

A new report supported by SAS, Norwegian, Widerøe, NHO Aviation, LO and Avinor states that Norway can take a leading role in phasing in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), but to achieve that goal, close cooperation between the authorities and the industry is required.

The country’s aviation sector aims to be fossil-free by 2050. Increased production and phasing in of SAF will be crucial to achieving this goal.

According to the report, the Norwegian industry is well-positioned to produce SAF, which Norway will need if it is to depend on aviation in a low-emission society. At present, however, the price gap between conventional fuel and SAF is considerable and the competitive nature of air transport makes the economics difficult for airlines.

“With the UN’s latest climate report as a backdrop, no one should be in any doubt that it is urgent,” Stein Nilsen, CEO of Widerøe and chairman of the board of NHO Aviation emphasises. “In a country like Norway, no one envisages that we can secure settlement, retain and develop jobs and exploit the nature-given benefits we have as an exporting nation without a well-functioning aviation industry. Aviation is forward-looking and existing infrastructure may also be used in the future. But we must find new solutions to achieve the goal of fossil-free Norwegian aviation by 2050.”

In 2019, the greenhouse gas emissions in Norway from civil domestic aviation amounted to 1.1 million tonnes of CO2, while in relation to international aviation to and from Norway, there were 1.7 million tonnes of CO2. In that year, the total greenhouse gas emissions percentages from domestic and international aviation were 2.2% and 5.5% respectively.

Last year, Norwegian aviation first presented a roadmap to achieve fossil-free aviation by 2050. That report built on the Paris Agreement’s objectives, meaning that flights in and from Norway in 2050 will not use fossil fuels.

“It is possible to achieve the goal of fossil-free aviation in 2050,” claims Avinor CEO Abraham Foss. “Airlines have engaged and set ambitious goals. Sustainable fuel is a solution that can be used now, in existing aircraft fleets. It is also a great advantage that SAF can use existing supply infrastructure for transport and storage of fuel. The solution is important in the short term but is also needed in the longer term, especially on long-haul flights. Avinor’s task is to facilitate the infrastructure for phasing in sustainable aviation fuel.”

Norwegian aviation is self-financing and has over time had low profitability, a situation exacerbated by the Covid19 pandemic. As noted, introducing SAF means increased costs, so for airlines to have the financial capacity for green restructuring, it is important to have measures that reduce the price gap against fossil fuels.

“Sustainable aviation fuels are an industrial opportunity for Norway, which can contribute to a fair transition to a climate-friendly working life with new, good jobs,” notes LO leader, Peggy Hessen Følsvik. “But this will require the development of new technologies, more production facilities, access to biomass and other input factors. There is then a need for instruments on both production and phasing in”.

The instruments proposed in the report include “establishing a fund solution that also safeguards airlines’ finances”, various incentives are considered including – through Enova – a role for the public sector as an early customer through FOT routes, public services and voluntary interference, a clear regulatory framework for accounting and documentation of climate effects from the use of sustainable fuels, and the establishment of an Aviation 21 process that can ensure knowledge-based and broad anchoring of a realistic, cost-effective and predictable path towards fossil-free aviation in 2050”.

Widerøe has also made its intention clear to contribute to Norway being a low-emission society by working with RollsRoyce and Tecnam to put an all-electric passenger aircraft into service in 2026. The project, announced in March 2021, expands on the research programme between RollsRoyce and Widerøe on sustainable aviation and also on the existing partnership between Rolls-Royce and Tecnam on powering the all-electric PVolt aircraft – this is a version of the OEM’s nine-passenger P2012 Traveller with an electric powerplant.

The threeway programme will see RollsRoyce bring its propulsion expertise, while Tecnam will provide the aircraft design, manufacturing and certification capabilities. Widerøe’s will be there to ensure that all competence and requirements expected of an airline operator are in place to enable the desired 2026 EIS.

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