Powering GSE with renewable fuels

San Diego airport, one of the top 15 fuel farms in North America, makes the transition to using renewable diesel.

Charlie Long started out at Menzies Aviation as a fueller at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) in 1998 before returning to the company in 2019 when it was awarded the San Diego International Airport (SAN) fuel farm contract.

The contract between Menzies and SAN Fuel Company is valid until July 2024.

Long, who is a General Manager at Menzies, played a key role in supporting SAN’s move to renewable fuels which included overseeing the construction of three above ground, on airport storage tanks, each of which hold over a million gallons. It took a total of 18 months to build the tanks.

The transition to renewable diesel at San Diego has enabled Menzies to greatly reduce carbon emissions without any impact to operations.

Menzies has a wealth of experience operating, owning and leasing fuel storage facilities and hydrant distribution systems at more than 60 sites around the world.

“In 2017, we became the largest independent and into-plane fuelling and fuel farm management provider and have overseen the successful delivery of many multi-million-dollar improvement and expansion projects so were well placed to take on the SAN contract,” said Long.

The aircraft fuelling market comprises two separate offerings: fuel farm management (FFM) and into-plane fuelling (ITP). Menzies Aviation oversees both aspects at SAN.

“Our fuel farm team manages our inventory, including all fuel transactions, quality control and maintenance, while our into-plane fuelling team handles the actual fuelling of the aircraft. We are also responsible for all the gas and diesel at the airport.”

SAN successfully transitioned from a standard petroleum-based diesel to a renewable diesel product over two years. Many fuels were considered during this process but a renewable diesel called R99 was eventually chosen as the alternative fuel.

“This decision was based on a number of crucial factors. Initially, our customers were concerned that major modifications would have to be made to accept the new product. R99 is chemically identical to standard diesel and required no modifications,” explained Long.

“Another issue was the fuel farm only had one diesel tank. R99 is a ‘drop in’ product which means the existing tank could be used without any draining and cleaning required. As a result, we were only required to make room for the delivery, meaning no down time on the tank. Finally, when biofuel was first introduced, it was very expensive but R99 offered a highly competitive rate. As a result, R99 met any operational concerns, making it the easy choice. Today, it is being used to power airside vehicles and equipment, like baggage tugs, belt loaders, and firefighting vehicles.”

Good act to follow
He said the project in SAN is unique and a good example for other Menzies teams to begin discussions with our airport partners, who are looking to transition their ground service equipment and airside vehicles to renewable fuels. “It demonstrates our experience and expertise in handling complicated transitions without any major operational impact,” said Long.

As onsite manager he was involved in every step of the transition, overseeing all developments, from identifying operational hurdles to maintaining open channels of communication with the airport and end of line users.

“To be at the forefront of this change is a huge source of pride for myself and my station,” said Long.

When asked if there were any ‘lessons learned’ from this project, he said: “The project demonstrated Menzies’ capabilities in successfully managing and coordinating a large airport-wide transition to renewable fuels, all without impacting operational demands. By learning from this project, and how best to respond to supply issues and delivery complications, other Menzies locations will be able to more easily transition, learning from the work completed in SAN.”

Looking to the future, what does Menzies expect. “We fully expect there will be multifuel options at airports in the future. Space, infrastructure and location, among other factors, will play a part in what models and fuels airports will be able to support in the medium to long-term. Support will be necessary from governments and policy makers to facilitate the energy transition for aviation, as well as more widely for other industries and domestic use.

“We know that renewable energy, green hydrogen, SAF and other sustainable fuels will be in short supply and there are undoubtedly many challenges to overcome, but we are optimistic that with all industry participants and other stakeholders playing their part, we can achieve a sustainable, decarbonised future for aviation.”

He said that sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) landscape is evolving rapidly, and Menzies supports its airline customers as it seeks to secure increased SAF supplies. Its fuel teams have already performed SAF refuels both in the US and the UK, and it safely handles SAF at its fuel farms and is ready to support new technology beyond SAF.

He explained: “As everyone in the industry will be aware, the European Parliament recently introduced new targets to increase both demand for, and supply of SAF. This stipulates that from 2025, all flights departing from an EU airport will be obliged to run partially on renewable fuels – rising from 2% in 2025, 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035 before steadily increasing to 70% in 2050. It will be a good test as to how well the industry responds to the considerable challenges due to limited infrastructure for the production, storage and distribution of SAF, making it difficult to scale up in production and supply. It will also be interesting to see if other governments introduce similar targets.”

Long said there is not one single solution to decarbonisation. “All avenues must be explored. Menzies has introduced alternative fuels at a number of locations and will continue to expand this, as one way of reducing our emissions, complimenting our increasing investment in electric GSE equipment.”

Menzies 'All In' sustainability plan

Since the launch of Menzies ‘All In’ sustainability plan in 2021, it has refreshed its targets and taken an absolute reduction approach for Scope 1, 2 and 3 CO2e emissions across the company to reach net zero by 2045. There are significant challenges facing the aviation industry’s path to net zero. “With international and domestic traffic on the rise, we need to ensure emissions are reduced in the case of rising flight volumes. We also need to ensure airport infrastructure is fit for purpose. Key upgrades need to be made at airports to enable access to renewable resources and the widespread use of electric GSE. For example, including specified charging areas that are large enough to accommodate large fleets and strategically located to minimise travel distance from charging points to operations. Significant progress can only be achieved through cooperation at all levels, including airports, airlines and governments. With an increasing number of global initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact, and the Airports of Tomorrow initiative, there is significant progress being made through the industry working together.”


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