As efforts to decarbonize the aviation industry continue, stakeholders are investing in opportunities to make operations, including ground services, more environmentally friendly.
A prime example of these efforts includes the work of World Fuel Services and its parent company World Kinect Corporation that sought a holistic means of reducing the environmental impact of fueling operations at Toulon Hyères Airport (TLN).
The company partnered with key players to bring green refueling operations to France. World Fuel worked with Almac to convert diesel-powered refueling trucks into all-electric refueling vehicles. Toulon Hyères Airport, operated by VINCI Airports, then deployed the electric ground support equipment (eGSE) on the airport to deliver sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) manufactured by Neste.
What’s more, World Kinect Energy Services – the sustainability division of World Kinect – installed solar panels on the roof of Toulon Hyères' fueling office to promote additional green energy solutions.
World Fuel delivered its first scheduled loads of SAF to TLN in 2015, according to Yassin Houmed, operation director of World Fuel Services France and managing director of World Fuel Aviation Services France. Since then, he explains, World Fuel has included sustainability offers in all of its airport and FBO bids.
“It’s part of our core offer,” Houmed says. “Over time, we’ve noticed more customers are asking for sustainability elements in their bid requests, which we are well situated to offer.
“In this specific project, Toulon Hyères Airport by VINCI Airports (TLN) made a call for tenders, with the environmental aspect being very important,” he continues. “Our winning bid included a broad-based offer including SAF supply, electric refuelers and solar installation.”
“The addition of this new SAF offering and electrification of our refueling operations in collaboration with World Fuel demonstrates VINCI Airports' commitment to decarbonizing air transport and sustainable mobility,” Basma Jarbouai, director, Toulon Hyères Airport, said in a press release highlighting the project. “The availability of biofuels for all our customers at Toulon Hyères Airport is the crossing of an important milestone that will allow them to operate in ever more environmentally friendly conditions.”
As part of the overarching fueling project, officials at World Fuel implemented a concept to avoid waste and began working with Almac to convert diesel-powered refueling trucks currently in the fleet to eGSE units that feature all-electric drivetrains and integrated pumping capability.
“Almac and World Fuel worked together on the concept. World Fuel’s France operations and refueler fleet director and Almac originated the concept to convert a thermic refueler to fully electric,” explains Houmed, adding the timeframe to complete a conversion is between 6 and 9 months. “Then the concept was validated by World Fuel’s technology and operations team per JIG requirement for the petroleum part. The conversion work was done at an Almac workshop in France.”
World Fuel continually looks for opportunities to help its customers lower carbon in airport operations, Houmed adds, pointing to the company’s first eHydrant cart delivered to easyJet during the COP 28 event in 2020 as an example.
“In 2021, when we were bidding the Toulon project, we identified the opportunity for electric refuelers. The financial cost of one 20m3 fully electric was around 4.5 times higher than the retrofit. We believe that converting an existing truck saves carbon, but we are still working on our analysis,” Houmed says.
Beyond costs, officials at World Fuel note Toulon Hyères will benefit from easier maintenance and reduced downtime as the electric drivetrain has fewer moving parts to maintain.
Houmed notes lower noise pollution and robust battery performance are also benefits to fuel providers.
“As part of our normal safety protocols, we have updated our standard procedures, and the staff have been fully trained on how to use the new refueler and to drive on the apron,” he adds.
Sustainable Operations and Infrastructure
Furthering sustainability efforts, the redesigned all-electric fueling trucks are distributing Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which has been made available to both business and commercial operators at Toulon Hyères Airport.
World Fuel is the only fuel supplier at TLN and World Fuel agents provide ground services.
According to the company, World Fuel has delivered more than 39 million gallons of SAF to business and commercial aviation customers worldwide since 2015. Produced from used cooking oil, SAF can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by approximately 80 percent over the entire life cycle compared to fossil fuel.
The blending of SAF at TLN airport is 35 percent on average, according to Houmed.
By utilizing SAF at Toulon Hyères Airport, TLN was able to achieve the next level of Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) certification, Houmed points out.
“In the long term, replacing conventional fuel with renewables will help decarbonize the aeronautics industry, particularly air transport,” he says.
According to airport officials, companies using SAF will benefit from a bonus under the eco-modulation scheme for landing fees implemented by VINCI Airports since 2020 in France. This system of modulating landing fees according to aircraft CO2 emissions allows companies that emit less CO2, and operate a more efficient fleet through the use of SAF, to benefit from a reduction in their landing fees, airport officials say.
World Fuel's sustainability division also installed solar panels on top of the fueling office at Toulon Hyères' Airport.
“The panel supports the office and can be used to charge the refuelers,” Houmed says.
Developing emission-free solutions like the all-electric refueling truck is just one of steps the company has taken to support sustainable airport operations and broaden the adoption of cleaner fuels like SAF, World Fuel officials say.
“World Fuel’s mission is to enable customers and partners in the aviation sector to adopt sustainable practices and decarbonize their operations. We commend Toulon Hyères airport for their leadership by setting a great example for others to follow," Duncan Storey, vice president, supply aviation Europe, World Fuel Services said in a press release announcing the project at TLN. “Our shared vision of a sustainable future has propelled us to expand our traditional services beyond renewables such as SAF, solar and electricity into developing sustainable equipment for airport operations through electrifying traditionally carbon-intensive refueling vehicles.”