Every day, tens of thousands of travelers pass through the energetic terminals at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Out of sight, hundreds of fryers are bubbling with a more sustainable solution to traditional kerosene: cooking oil.
“We generate a lot of waste, a lot of unwanted products that have to go somewhere,” said Robert Horton, DFW’s vice president of environmental affairs. “We’re trying to find a way to eliminate that without having any adverse effects.”
The airport collects nearly 32,000 pounds of cooking oil each month and stores it in tanks until it can be shipped and processed into sustainable aviation fuel, also known as SAF.
The program began in two of DFW’s terminals in 2019 and quickly expanded to more than 200 restaurants across five terminals.
‘Stunning, isn’t it?’ said concessionaire Chalmer McWilliams. “Who would have ever expected something like this?”
We take a closer look at how DFW Airport recycles cooking oil to help create Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
McWilliams landed at DFW Airport in the mid-1990s and operates three McDonald’s locations. When he heard about the recycling program, he was excited to turn the oil for his fries into fuel for the planes, like the ones that land yards from his fryers.
“It’s wild, isn’t it?” said McWilliams.
After the restaurants collect the oil, crews transport it to larger storage tanks around the airport. The folks behind the program estimate that each gallon of oil creates about 0.8 gallons of SAF.
“The team has worked very, very hard to ensure we have the right partners and the right processes in place so that they can easily participate,” said Ken Buchanan, DFW’s EVP of Customer Experience and Revenue Management.
The recycling program is part of DFW’s commitment to achieving 100% net-zero emissions by 2030. The airport is working with a company called Neste to convert the cooking oil into SAF. Neste ships it for processing and delivers the renewable fuel to several airlines, including American, at US airports. Neste estimates that SAF currently accounts for around 1% of aircraft fuel consumption, but they believe airlines are open to using more.
“They’ve started to realize that aviation and airlines around the world play a big role in emissions,” Pratik Chandhoke said. He says SAF can reduce emissions by about 80% from production to in-flight fuel burn. It is clear and loses the characteristic odor of the fryers.
“It doesn’t smell like french fries at all,” laughed Chandhoke. “If you look at the liquid yourself, it’s clear as water and has no odor.”
Just a few months ago, Neste and DFW Airport marked a milestone: they delivered a truckload of SAF to the airport’s private terminal.
“That was a pilot to see if it worked, and it worked pretty well,” Chandhoke said.
At the moment, SAF’s costs are making it difficult to sell. Horton estimates it’s two to six times more expensive than regular kerosene, but Chandhoke says prices are falling.
Executives at DFW hope they will find a way to make sustainable fuel supply permanent.
“We already think we have the infrastructure in place. We have fuel distribution systems,” says Horton. “If we can get continuous supply at the right economic prices, we have a drop-in solution that can be applied right here.”
https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/national-international/fries-to-fuel-how-dfw-airport-powers-jets-from-cooking-oil/3235084/ How DFW Airport uses cooking oil to power planes – NBC10 Philadelphia