You may have heard about Sustainable Aviation Fuel and want to know more about how it works. This blog is your beginner’s guide to sustainable aviation fuel. We will be highlighting the top 6 things you didn’t know about Sustainable Aviation Fuel (or as we like to call it: SAF).
1. SAF is a sustainable alternative for fossil kerosene
SAF stands for Sustainable Aviation Fuel and is a liquid and clean substitute for fossil kerosene produced from sustainable resources. These can include waste oils from biological origin, agricultural residues or CO2 captured from the air. It significantly reduces CO2 emissions from air transportation and has already fueled over 330,000 commercial flights (source).
2. SAF is a drop-in fuel
SAF is a drop-in fuel, meaning it is a completely interchangeable substitute for fossil kerosene. After blending the neat SAF with fossil kerosene, the blended SAF has the same characteristics as Jet A1 fuel and requires no special or expensive changes in infrastructure or equipment.
3. There are multiple ways to make SAF
There are many different ways and technologies to produce SAF. These technologies can transform a wide range of biomass and waste feedstocks (including CO2) into fossil kerosene. Currently, there are eight different technology platforms certified to produce SAF for use in commercial aviation. You can find out more about them here.
4. In general, the use of SAF results in a reduction in CO2 emissions across its lifecycle compared to fossil kerosene
Depending on its life cycle and the processes used to create it, in its neat form SAF can reduce CO2 emissions by 65-85%. The CO2 emission reduction depends on the feedstocks and processes used to create the fuel. The use of SAF reduces the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, as the sustainable resources used to produce SAF recycle CO2 that was previously emitted. This results in a closed carbon cycle which doesn’t release additional carbon into the environment (like the use of fossil kerosene does).
5. The SAF market currently accounts for less than 0.1% of jet fuel consumption
The SAF market is still small compared to fossil kerosene production – it is currently less than 0.1% of total global jet fuel consumption. This is because of the current lack of dedicated SAF production plants. However, the demand for SAF is rapidly growing. Innovation and the scaling up of production plants are key to increasing the availability of these fuels.
6. The “green premium” is one of SAF’s biggest challenges
The prominent challenge SAF faces is the “green premium” – the price difference between fossil kerosene and SAF. Because of this premium, airlines are limited in the volume of SAF they can buy (or invest in). But there is a solution to this: organizations forming partnerships beyond the aviation industry to increase SAF uptake, bring this premium down, and push the energy transition in this industry.
It is especially important for corporates to take a stand and lead this transition, since many of them have significant aviation–related footprints – think of business travel and air freight. There are enough sustainable feedstocks available to fuel all flights – the next step is to make this economically, environmentally, and socially viable.