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Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Table of Contents

Introduction

The aviation industry is under increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact and carbon emissions. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has emerged as one of the most promising solutions to help decarbonize air travel. SAF is a biofuel used for aircraft that is derived from sustainable, non-petroleum resources and has the potential for significantly lower carbon emissions over its lifecycle compared to conventional jet fuel.

With this report– we will explore what SAF is, the benefits it provides, current production and usage levels– as well as barriers to wider adoption.

The successful completion of India’s first commercial passenger flight with a blend of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) manufactured domestically, was a significant step towards the decarbonization of the aviation industry. Air Asia flight I5 767 – which was powered by SAF mixed aviation turbine fuel (ATF) made by Praj Industries Ltd. utilising local feedstock provided by Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. – took off from Pune and arrived in Delhi.

What is SAF?

SAF or Sustainable Aviation Fuel is a biofuel used for aircraft that is derived from sustainable, non-petroleum resources such as used cooking oil, plant oils, animal fats, municipal waste or agricultural residues. The chemical and physical properties of SAF are very similar to conventional jet fuel. As a “drop-in” fuel, SAF can be blended with petroleum-based jet fuel up to a 50% blend level without requiring any modifications to aircraft, engines or fueling infrastructure.

SAF has already been approved and certified by ASTM International for commercial use. Over 225,000 flights have been conducted using SAF blends to date. Major aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus have also conducted extensive test flights using SAF and confirmed there are no impacts to aircraft performance or emissions.

Is It Safe to Use?

SAF or Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be mixed at up to 50% with traditional jet fuel and all quality tests are completed as per a traditional jet fuel. The blend is then re-certified as Jet A or Jet A-1. It can be treated in the same way as a traditional jet fuel– so no changes are required in the fuelling infrastructure or for an aircraft wanting to use SAF.

Benefits of SAF

The primary benefit of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) is its significantly lower carbon emissions over its lifecycle compared to conventional jet fuel. Studies have shown SAF can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by over 80% depending on the feedstock and production process used. Some sources like municipal waste may even achieve carbon negative emissions.

SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) also provides an opportunity to decarbonize existing aircraft and operations without the need for new aircraft designs or infrastructure changes. It serves as a “drop-in” solution allowing for gradual introduction into the current aviation system. Over time, wider SAF adoption and production improvements could even enable some sectors like short-haul to achieve net-zero carbon emissions using current aircraft technology.

From an economic perspective, developing a competitive SAF industry would also help insulate airlines from volatile oil prices over the long run while stimulating new jobs and business opportunities in both traditional and emerging energy markets.

Current Production and Usage

Despite the benefits– SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) currently only accounts for a tiny fraction of total jet fuel demand due to limited commercial production volumes. Most current SAF supply is produced via small demonstration facilities or niche producers. Total global SAF production capacity is estimated at 100 million liters per year, less than 0.1% of annual jet fuel demand.

However– interest and offtake agreements from major airlines are growing rapidly. Airlines like United, JetBlue, Lufthansa and others have committed to purchase hundreds of millions of gallons of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) over the next decade via long-term supply contracts. Airports in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Amsterdam also have regular SAF supply available.

Over 225,000 commercial flights have used SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) blends to date according to industry groups. In 2021, an estimated 32 million gallons of SAF were consumed globally, more than doubling from 2020 levels. While modest on an absolute basis currently, this represents important early progress and learning for the industry.

Barriers to Wider Adoption

The key barriers preventing SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) from being adopted on a much larger commercial scale include:

  • High production costs – SAF is currently 2-5 times more expensive to produce than conventional jet fuel due to lack of economies of scale in production.
  • Limited feedstock availability – Suitable low-carbon feedstocks like waste oils are geographically constrained and production requires vast acreage if relying on energy crops.
  • Financing challenges – Large capital investments required and long payback periods deter investment without public funding or offtake commitments.
  • Policy and mandate uncertainty – Unclear long-term policy outlook in most countries for incentives, mandates or carbon pricing needed to drive investment.
  • Technology risks – Alternative production pathways beyond waste oils and fats have yet to be proven at commercial scale.

Conclusion

SAF represents an important pathway for the aviation industry to reduce its carbon emissions over the coming decades. While challenges around cost, scale and policy support remain, continued progress in all areas will be needed to realize SAF’s full decarbonization potential.

With a concerted effort from industry, governments and investors, many experts believe SAF could supply at least 30% of global aviation fuel demand by 2050. This would put the sector on track to achieving its climate goals. We hope this overview provides useful context and insights into why SAF is so important for the future sustainability of the aviation industry.

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About Us

We are Ruskin Felix Consulting (RFC), a global strategic advisory firm. For over a decade, we have partnered with clients worldwide to solve complex business and technology challenges. Whether you need strategic advice, market research, or solutions to make important decisions, we’ve got you covered.

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At RFC, we believe that every great idea deserves a chance to shine. With our expert guidance, cutting-edge strategies, and meticulous attention to detail, we’ll work hand in hand with you to create strategies and guidance that helps you scale, build and develop your idea into a ready product in the market.