Korean Air and GS Caltex, a globally-recognized Korean energy and chemical company, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cooperate on a series of test flights using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
According to Korean Air, its agreement with GS Caltex is aligned with the Korean government’s initiative to boost the supply of eco-friendly biofuels.
The test flights using SAF will be analyzed and the results will be used by the Korean government to establish SAF quality standards and accelerate commercialization.
Both Korean Air and GS Caltex will proactively participate in the government project hosted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT). The Korea Petroleum Quality & Distribution Authority and the Incheon International Airport Corporation will also participate in this project.
Korean Air will use SAF supplied by GS Caltex on select international flights departing from Seoul Incheon. The airline will use SAF that satisfies international standards on quality, including American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.
The test flights will take place for six months starting in the second half of 2023, and the government plans to establish SAF implementation guidelines for domestic use based on the results of the flights. The research will assist in setting SAF quality standards prior to full-scale domestic production.
Korean Air tested SAF for the first time in November 2017 between Seoul Incheon and Chicago O’Hare, and has been using SAF on its Paris-Seoul Incheon route since last year. Korean Air has also signed an agreement with global energy company Shell to purchase SAF from Shell at major airports in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East for five years starting in 2026.
The airline’s increase in SAF usage is part of its proactive efforts to reduce carbon emissions to help tackle climate change, and further strengthen its environmental, social and governance (ESG) management for governance transparency.
SAF is expected to play a key role in substantially reducing carbon emissions from aircraft operations. Unlike nonrenewable fossil fuels, SAF is manufactured from eco-friendly and/or recycled materials such as animal and vegetable oils, algae and solid waste, and may reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent compared to traditional fossil jet fuel.
SAF usage is on the rise, and the EU is mandating airlines refueling in its territory to use a minimum 2 percent SAF blend from 2025. Many countries including the United States are introducing a variety of policies to expand SAF production through incentives such as tax deduction. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has also led states to adopt and commit to the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 for international flight operations.