AVIATION’S LOW-CARBON FUTURE WITH SAF
EXPERT OPINIONS AND RESEARCH FROM THE PEOPLE MAKING SAF HAPPEN
SAF is a new frontier in aviation: a dream of cleaner, greener flying for all. But achieving its goals – the Net Zero ambition for 2050 and beyond – will be far from easy. This report summarizes the relevant issues and challenges, spanning feedstock availability, production capacities, approval requirements, and the legal frameworks emerging in the two biggest aviation markets: the EU and USA.
At its core is a set of interviews with 13 experts on SAF – representing a cross-section of the aviation industry, from experienced policy analysts to those building the infrastructure connecting producers to customers (see Section 7). Sorting and sifting the insights they shared resulted in eight repeated themes. What unites them? While not minimizing the difficulties, their overall outlook was profoundly positive.
EIGHT KEY CHALLENGES FOR SUSTAINABLE SKIES
The eight main issues they raised (see Section 8) can be summarized as a need for open and informed dialog plus diversity of innovation. Their conclusion: no single technology can answer the EU’s plan for 63% blends of SAF in tanks by 2050, or the USA’s 35bn gallon production forecast for the same year.
Taken together, however, it seems that the current and future production pathways, improved collection and distribution of waste product, and capacity increases in renewable energy (such as solar farms) can indeed deliver European and American ambitions (see Section 4). What's more, many other countries are basing their policies on these models too.
However, the enabling technologies are not at the same stage of development, with many promising pathways still in pilot or development stage. Will PtX, synthesizing SAF from air, water, and renewable electricity, be a significant part of the supply chain? Yes – but for some time, eJet fuel cannot stand alone, nor will it be the dominant pathway to decarbonization. While battery-powered light aircraft already exist, a battery-powered passenger jumbo jet is many decades away. And current SAF prices range from 2-5x conventional fossil JET A/A-1.
THE EXPERT VIEW: ALL CAN BE SOLVED …
What seems clear, though, is that for the next decade, HEFA-SPK will be the main pathway. A hydroprocessed renewable fuel from a diverse set of feedstocks, it offers drop-in compatibility with the global fleet, volume potential on the way to Net Zero 2050, and easy transport and distribution with existing infrastructure.
HEFA with hydroprocessing is a mature process, tested and proven; even a small facility can produce SAF equivalent to 3.5bn passenger kilometers each year. And the technology is in play 6. Over 100m liters of SAF were produced in 20216; over 450,000 flights have had SAF in their tanks; more than 50 airlines have SAF in their supply chain. And with initiatives like the USA’s Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s RefuelEU formalizing requirements in law (see Section 6) there’s strong political will to see SAF go mainstream, too.
… WITH SAF - THE FUTURE OF AIR TRANSPORT
So one thing seems clear: SAF is the future. This report will define the likely size and shape of the SAF sector between now and 2050, with our interviewees comparing and contrasting the interlocking factors of the industry according to their individual expertise. They’ll give you a formal, yet readable overview of the market … today and tomorrow.