Yesterday Delta Air Lines signed a deal with Colorado-based Gevo Inc. for 75 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) per year over seven years.  Gevo states the “Agreement valued at approximately $2.8 billion of revenue over seven years, inclusive of the value from environmental benefits.”

75 million gallons – this number deserves context.  The idea of moving towards SAF is good for everyone, regardless.  But that SAF volume needs to be put in context.  The chart below lists gallons of fuel used by Delta per flight.  The trend is down and that is a great start to this process. 

In 2021, through September, Delta averaged 1,145 gallons of fuel per flight hour.  Those 75 million gallons will be exhausted in 65,502 flight hours at current rates.  Delta’s fleet generated 1,415,650 flight hours through September 2021 – an average of 5,205 flight hours per day.  This means 75m gallons of SAF will be exhausted in 12.6 days at current operational levels.

SAF is the way forward until hydrogen is available and batteries are viable. To their credit, Boeing has been consistent on this.  But it is important to understand just how much fuel an airline burns through – even as the industry has become ever more fuel-efficient. To fly any kind of commercial payload over any serious distance, SAF is the only current way to reduce NOx and other pollutants.  But there is nowhere enough of it to fuel airlines more than for a few days.

If you’re looking for a way to make a fortune, figure out a method to produce and offer SAF in billions of gallons.

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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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