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April 17, 2023

The Actions Needed to Fuel SAF’s Takeoff

It is not negotiable nor up for debate: The aviation industry needs to reach its 2050 decarbonization goals. But for this to happen there needs to be a serious ramp up in production and adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). For a full review of the opportunities and challenges ahead, Topsoe gathered leading experts across the value chain, to co-create an overview of SAF’s key drivers and challenges for the Voices from the Sky, 2023 SAF report.

Why is SAF so important?

More efficient aircraft design, improved technology, and optimized Air Traffic Management (ATM) will deliver advantages when it comes to cutting CO2 emissions. But the real impact will be provided by the fuel itself. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production is reckoned to have reached around 300 million liters in 2022—a 200% increase on 2021 production. But for SAF to deliver its 65% CO2 reduction by 2050, production capacity will need to reach 450 billion liters annually.

The solution to scaling up SAF is certainly not an easy one. It will come from a mix of technology and innovation, the development and scaling up of multiple production pathways, legislation, blending mandates, incentivization, a focus on cost reduction and absorption, infrastructure, de-risking investment, and even structural and cultural changes within companies.

In Voices from the Sky, the 13 experts representing a cross-section of the aviation industry – from experienced policy analysts to those building the infrastructure connecting producers to customers – come together to create an authoritative summary of the SAF landscape: an overview of its issues, opportunities, and development. The views of SAF specialists from companies such as Norwegian, Neste, SkyNRG, Southwest Airlines and Sasol, to name just a few, provide a wide perspective on SAF and how, as an industry, we can ensure faster growth and adoption.

SAF provides a great opportunity for the aviation industry, for fuel producers, for technology providers and, of course, for the decarbonization of a hard-to-abate sector. However, several areas need to be smoothed out, challenges met, and barriers overcome, if we are to succeed in decarbonizing aviation; not least through close industry collaboration across the entire value chain.

The challenges facing SAF

What emerged in Voices from the Sky were eight key challenges, spanning all parts of the air transport value chain. Upstream, concerns included the availability of feedstocks like waste oil, and the availability of renewable energy sources for production processes. Political frameworks – and differences between the USA’s incentive-driven approach and the EU’s mandate-driven one – were debated, as was the disconnect in timelines between government schemes and investment horizons. Downstream, doubts about future passenger demand also featured large.

The future for SAF

At Topsoe, we realize we are one part of an entire SAF ecosystem that must collaborate if we are to accelerate progress in SAF production and adoption. A successful transition to a low-carbon aviation industry needs collective effort to overcome barriers and take advantage of opportunities – this sentiment is echoed throughout the Voices from The Sky SAF report.

At Topsoe, we are actively engaging in partnerships across the aviation industry to drive change. This is also why we have consistently brought together some of the foremost industry experts and thought leaders for the, hopefully, insightful Voices from The Sky SAF report. The active sharing of information and outlooks will only develop the SAF conversation and further cultivate collaboration across the value chain towards the common goal of emission reductions.

We need to develop all available avenues to secure accelerated decarbonization – but we need to also secure we have the correct legislation and incentives, infrastructure and culture to make it happen. We will achieve this through knowledge and expertise sharing, and continuous innovation, allowing us to turn Voices from the Sky into positive actions on the ground.

 Read Voices from the Sky here.

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