An exclusive interview with Linn Tonsberg- Managing Editor, Middle East of Air BP
Ayşe Akalın: Firstly, thank you very much for the interview. Can you please inform us about Air Bp activities in Middle East and your presence in the global Air BP network? also, your services including SAF services in which Airforce you are in and Airlines you have provided. Also, how the SAF supply chain works, there will be the first transatlantic SAF flight. SAF customers feedback, and your assessments of the SAF.
Linn Tonsberg: To kick off just by giving you a little bit intro to Air BP in the Middle East. So, Air BP we have present here for over 90 years for today we are present in 4 countries and 13 locations, and we service over 150 customers across this region. So, it is a really important region for us. I always say this we are in heart of energy, and we are in heart of aviation for this region. So, we had 90 years and we’re looking for the next 90 more.
The countries that we operate in today is Bahrain, we have a joint venture in Bahrain. The UAE, Saudi Arabia as well, and we are also present in Iraq. That’s where our presence across the region.
Ayşe Akalın: Which airlines do you provide services in the Middle East Region?
Linn Tonsberg: For airlines it is over 150 so it is a big portfolio. If we mention specifics Emirates and all airlines across the region. Out of our different hubs we have a presence in Dubai Airport and Sharjah as well, and we also have some ad hoc station across the UAE. In Iraq we are both in Baghdat and Erbil and Bahrain there is an airport in Manama as well. So, these are key locations we operate.
Ayşe Akalın: Net zero concept is a significant matter of in the world’s agenda. Could you please inform us about your investment in SAF and SAF manufacturing plans? What can you tell us about your production technologies?
Linn Tonsberg: I’m going to break down to a couple different answers for you. Start with the Net Zero, so, aviation industry has a target of Net Zero by 2050, and I think it is really helpful to give you a magnitude of why it is so important for the CO2 emissions the Aviation presents. If you look globally, 2% percent of the CO2 emissions come from Aviation. If I break down to the transport sector, 12% comes from Aviation. I think this is astounding if we look the growth of the industry. So, by 2040 IATA is predicting 7.8 billion passengers globally so, the growth is enormous. So, 70% of that is coming from Long Hauled flights. This is why SAF is so important because we don’t have other technologies per today that can readily power those aircraft i.e., things like hydrogen or batteries. This is why we believe that SAF is really important to decarbonize.
If you look at what the BP specifically is looking out, we think coprocessing is one of the really important ways we have that SAF production and that’s because you can do it at like speed and scale now. So earlier this year, I believe in January, we announced five different projects, two are already producing SAF so those are Castellón in Spain and Lingen in Germany with three more are coming online. Those are Kwinana in Australia, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Cherry Point in the U.S. We are looking at them coming online by around 2030. I don’t have a number for you in terms of dollar amount of investments, but it is a big amount and that’s about 500.000 barrels per day by dominantly SAF by 2030.
Ayşe Akalın: Are planning new investment in Middle East?
Linn Tonsberg: So, coming onto that, we are currently doing a feasibility study with our partners in Abu Dhabi. We are really leveraging the UAE capabilities across partners that’s BP, ADNOC, Masdar, Tadweer, and Etihad Airways. So that feasibility study is looking at the opportunities, in both technology and economic lands, to producing SAF from municipal solid waste (MSW) and renewable Hydrogen. SAF is one of the products that they are looking at amongst others, but it is a really important step in looking how what’s the role of the GSS in decarbonizing aviation overall. You know, we need production to be able to do that because we have proximity of supply to end destination of the actual molecules. So, if there is positive outcome from the feasibility study which is already happening, we will see the first commercial scale production plant.
Ayşe Akalın: When will the study completed?
Linn Tonsberg: The feasibility study is ongoing so within year I think we have a plant in Abu Dhabi.
Ayşe Akalın: What is BP’s SAF specifications and composition?
Linn Tonsberg: This is an interesting topic. In each country or region policies are very different. Some says you can only use waste energy, or you have others that look at different types of feedstocks as well. I think we are exploring different options at present. So, I don’t have one answer to you, what we are doing here is looking at adminicle MSW and renewable Hydrogen. We have a number of different projects. It’s not a one size fits all.
Ayşe Akalın: Can you enlighten us about the feedstock providers, do you cooperate with the Middle East for your supply chain?
Linn Tonsberg: So SAF is a very new conversation for this region particularly. So here we are looking at the feasibility study and that will be the main focus right now. As the supply chain consists of feedstocks and general that is so across BP, we do operate across the supply chain.
One of things that you opened up with is cost. There is very high cost. There is no hiding that SAF is 3 to 5 times more than your traditional jet fuel molecules. The reason for that is usually twofold. Part of it is that the technology is absent, and we expect that as that technology matures cost will naturally come down. Feedstocks costs are high and that will continue to be a challenge in the future.
Ayşe Akalın: Virgin Atlantic announced the world’s first cross-Atlantic SAF flight from New York to London. Could you please inform us about this?
Linn Tonsberg:I think this is such an exiting project also it demonstrates collaboration among the industry. So, we’re involved in that from the fuel aspect. We’re also working very closely with the engine manufacturers so we will have that successful test flight end of November this year (2023).
Ayşe Akalın: What can you tell us about your SAF customers in the Middle East Region and their feedback?
Linn Tonsberg: So, we presently don’t have SAF here right now. So, our focus is looking at local production and trying to see how we can have a positive impact collaborating with partners in local production. Otherwise, we don’t have any SAF presence. Per today we don’t have any in the UAE, but Emirates are doing general as an airliner doing amazing thing. I think Emirates have millions of R&D investment in low carbon which is a biggest number in R&D in any airline. Emirates are really leading the way in low carbon space as we see in the UAE quite frankly. Emirates are also taking the lead; they did the first demonstration of 100% SAF flight earlier this year as well on a Boeing aircraft. But we’re still looking at supply and we seed growth and demand due to mandates etc. We need to ensure to scale up supply accordingly.
Ayşe Akalın: Otherwise, as I see that Airlines defined their own solution. That’s why they are just gathering and find…
Linn Tonsberg: That is a cross collaboration and that’s exactly it. So, I think the only way we going to reach the Net Zero target by 2050 is cross industry collaboration. That includes airlines, governments, fuel suppliers such as us and leveraging companies like BP, as we are an integrated energy company. So, looking from feedstock due to our technology partners etc. it’s crucial to be able to really get to the part where we can have that.
Ayşe Akalın: It's a big challenge for the Airlines because of limited manufacturing and expensive SAF prices as well. What’s your assessment on that?
Linn Tonsberg: Going back to what I said before when you are at the early stages of it the technology is expensive. Now I think one thing we see clearly is that as technology matures and as that you scale up that cost will naturally come down. For feedstocks it’s hard to have an answer on that because scarcity of supply for feedstocks continues to be a challenge. But I think that technology part will naturally come down