UK business aviation gateway Farnborough Airport is to fuel all its on-site vehicles with hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), just one element in its effort to minimise harmful emissions and maximise its sustainability
Farnborough Airport, located in Hampshire in the south of England, is a full-service private airport that describes itself as ‘Europe’s leading business aviation airport’ and ‘the business aviation gateway to London’. All of its on-site currently diesel-powered cars are now to start changing over to use HVO, which, the gateway says, creates only 10% of the emissions that diesel does.
HVO is produced entirely from sustainable renewable feedstocks, including used cooking oil, plant, food and animal waste.
The move to HVO “marks another significant step in Farnborough Airport’s work to support the decarbonisation of the wider aviation industry”, it says.
Farnborough Airport first introduced sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at the gateway in July 2021, enabling a reduction of emissions during flights of up to 80%, it asserts. And, over the past 10 years, the airport has reduced its controllable emissions by over 70%, its operator – Farnborough Airport Bidco, part of Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund – informs.
Farnborough Airport CEO Simon Geere comments: “The Farnborough Airport team recognises that climate change is a clear and pressing issue and is committed to minimising its environmental impact and improving environmental performance throughout its operations.
“The introduction of HVO is another milestone in our sustainability programme and an integral part in delivering against the government’s targets for net zero carbon emissions.”
The WP Group is supplying HVO to Farnborough Airport. Because HVO is a paraffinic diesel, it can readily replace standard diesel, with no retrofitting required to a vehicle. As well as producing much lower levels of carbon dioxide, other benefits include increased storage life and reduced NOx emissions; it’s not susceptible to ‘diesel bug’ (the contamination of diesel by fungi, bacteria and the like); and its low freezing point.
WP Group’s commercial manager, Mark Clouter, observes: “It’s great to see Farnborough Airport switching to a renewable fuel. HVO offers an immediate way to reduce emissions, without incurring capital costs to change vehicles or equipment.
“WP is committed to our longstanding relationship with Farnborough Airport providing a secure supply of the latest products, technologies and fuel management supporting the airport’s sustainability programme.”
Geere tells Airside that the gateway’s operator regards sustainability as a critical consideration. “At Farnborough Airport, we want to ensure sustainability sits at the heart of everything we do, from our environmental performance, to having a positive social impact on our staff and the surrounding local communities.”
He continues: “In 2018, Airports Council International Europe awarded us carbon level 3+ neutral status, making us the first business aviation airport in the world to be so accredited. We are committed to ensuring the highest standards of environmental performance via how renewables, recycling and energy efficiency can further drive down our emissions.
“Working to accelerate the use of alternative fuel technologies plays a significant part in this, as with our introduction of SAF and HVO. Over the last few years, we have worked to identify, measure and reduce emissions related to the airport’s activities, which has included establishing a dedicated Sustainability Team to achieve some pretty ambitious goals.
“For us, sustainability goes beyond simply managing our environmental performance: it’s about building a sustainable and growing company, so it is factored into everything we do. For example, we prioritise recruiting employees from the local community. This has many benefits, not least supporting the local economy, but also reducing the carbon footprint of our staff’s commute to work. We have also recently introduced an electric car leasing programme for employees.
“Sustainability is about being an attractive employer; we want to be an employer of choice and responsibility in the region. Around 80% of our workforce lives within a 10-mile radius of Farnborough Airport and we are proud to say we made no redundancies during the pandemic.”
Speaking to Airside in late April, Geere confirmed that most of the airport’s remaining diesel-powered on-site vehicles would soon transition to using HVO. The HVO is supplied by WP Group tankers on an as-needed basis, and kept in a 13,000-litre on-site storage tank. Currently, HVO is expected to deliver in excess of 60,000 litres of standard diesel on an annual basis.
Meanwhile, the SAF available to all aircraft that use Farnborough Airport is produced by Neste. This SAF is made from 100% renewable and sustainable waste and residual raw materials, which includes cooking oil and animal fat waste. “We have a strong SAF blend of 38% SAF and 62% JET A1 fuel available on site and we are expecting government policy to help strengthen the impact SAF will have in the aviation sector,” Geere says.
“The main challenge for SAF is its cost – it can be more than double the price of traditional Jet A1, and this means that demand for SAF is still very low, which in turn means investment in supply and production is impacted. It is, of course, circular and what we need are co-ordinated industry efforts to increase investment in this area,” he warns.
Using HVO and SAF helps the airport to minimise its harmful emissions. As alluded to above, the gateway has reduced its emissions by 70% over the last decade across Scopes one and two – the emissions it can control. The airport calculates its carbon footprint annually as part of its Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) scheme neutrality for Scopes one and two.
As well as changes to more environmentally friendly fuel, reductions in emissions have been achieved in several other ways, including investment in solar panels, an extensive LED light installation programme and the gradual electrification of the operational vehicle fleet at Farnborough Airport. The airport operator also purchases Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) backed electricity for use across the site.
There has been a focus on technological investment, too, including smart metering and efficient heating and control systems. To further improve the process, the airport has run staff competency training programmes, community engagement and business-to-business networking, all of which has helped the process of emissions reduction.
As to the future, Geere concludes: “We are also working on our own Road Map to Net Zero, which will deliver against the UK Government’s Net Zero goals. Ultimately, we will be accelerating our efforts to improve environmental performance through continuing to operate a certified environment management system (EMS) and further committing to prevent pollution, address climate change and continually improve environmental performance through technology, efficient processes, staff training and company-wide awareness.”