By Jamie Freed
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Airbus SE and Qantas Airways Ltd plan to announce the first investment from a $200 million fund to develop a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in Australia within about a month, an Airbus executive said on Monday.
The companies established the fund last year after Qantas set a target of using 10% SAF in its fuel mix by 2030 and placed a multibillion-dollar order for Airbus narrowbody and widebody planes.
Australia lacks an SAF industry, meaning Qantas’ purchases of the fuel are made at overseas airports.
Stephen Forshaw, Airbus’ chief representative for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, said the manufacturer and Qantas were meeting weekly to discuss $1 million-plus investments in early stage SAF projects in Australia.
“The first investment has been made but not fully closed yet,” he said in an interview ahead of the Australia International Airshow, which begins on Tuesday. “We’ve both agreed to it, and I think we’ll make some announcements probably in the next month or so around the completion of that.”
Qantas declined to comment.
Forshaw said most of the investments being considered involved seed funding, where the partners might take a minority equity stake.
“Some of them may be even earlier than Series A. What it may do is provide us with the opportunity or right of first refusal to go in at Series A or Series B or beyond,” he said. “And then the pace will determine whether we want to do that or whether we see it is time to open it up to other investors.”
He declined to say what type of project was planned for the first investment but said that in the longer term, Australia had lots of potential to use solar power for projects that would help meet demand given limited feedstock available from sources like oils and fats.
Qantas Chief Sustainability Officer Andrew Parker last week told analysts the airline could meet its 2030 target of 10% SAF solely through purchases in London and California if needed, but noted that 70% of the airline’s total fuel was sourced from Australia.
“We know we have to play a lead role in developing a domestic industry,” he said, adding there could be local production by the second half of the decade.
Qantas expects about 60% of its fuel could be SAF by 2050 to meet its target of net zero emissions by that date.
($1 = 1.4865 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Jamie Freed. Editing by Gerry Doyle)