Sustainable Aviation Fuel: Navigating the Future of Flight
As the world unites to combat climate change, the aviation industry is taking significant steps towards a more sustainable future. One of the most promising developments in this journey is the rise of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
The aggregation and integration of SAF with Jet Fuel A1 supply chains is a crucial initiative in aviation to reduce environmental impacts. SAF is produced from renewable sources including waste materials (such as waste plastics, used tyres and cooking oil) and biomass, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional jet fuel. SAF is blended with Jet Fuel A1 to create a greener aviation fuel mix that meets aviation standards while decreasing carbon emissions. By combining SAF and Jet Fuel A1, airports contribute to reducing the aviation industry’s carbon footprint, making air travel more environmentally friendly.
SAF is one of the clean energy options that BE&R are engaged in via the support for the proposed Carbon Recycle waste tyre and plastics recycling plant for WA. BE&R works in the transition fuels and clean energy space. We expect SAF to play a significant role in decarbonising the airline industry.
Jet Fuel A-1 vs SAF Specifications
Jet Fuel A-1
Jet fuel, also known as aviation turbine fuel (ATF) or abbreviated as Avtur, is specially formulated for aircraft equipped with gas-turbine engines. The aviation industry primarily relies on the standardized international variant Jet A-1 for commercial flight operations.
Jet A-1 is a conventional aviation fuel derived from crude oil. It is a refined version of Kerosene that primarily consists of hydrocarbons, and traces of sulfur and other impurities. It contains a higher carbon content as it is derived from fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions when burned.
Jet A-1 is the standard specification fuel used in the rest of the world other than Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) where TS-1 is the most common standard. TS-1 is a jet fuel made to Russian standard for enhanced cold-weather performance. It has a somewhat higher volatility than Jet A-1 and it also has a very low freezing point.
SAF is designed to have a lower carbon footprint compared to Jet A-1 and it can be made from a variety of sources which can result in different compositions. SAF typically has a lower carbon content compared to Jet A-1, and some SAFs are considered “carbon-neutral” or “carbon-negative” when their production involves carbon capture and utilization technologies, or when they are produced from wastes diverted from landfill to recycling. SAF is designed to meet the international aviation fuel standards and is considered a drop-in fuel, meaning it can be used as a direct replacement for Jet A-1 in most aircraft without engine modifications.
Local SAF Sources
The Sustainable Aviation Fuel Roadmap indicates that Australia is in an excellent position to cultivate a varied array of feedstock sources for a thriving domestic SAF sector.
Australia’s climate, agricultural methods, and established distribution networks offer promising prospects for nurturing various organic material-based feedstocks. These are categorized as biogenic feedstocks and encompass resources like sugar cane, sawmill remnants, municipal solid waste, oilseeds, and recycled cooking oil.
Australia’s abundant renewable energy resources and the emerging green hydrogen sector will play pivotal roles in the refinement of biofuels. As the hydrogen industry expands, with an increasing availability of green hydrogen, hydrogen itself will evolve into a standalone feedstock. When combined with CO2, it can be utilized to generate SAF.
According to the roadmap’s projections, there is a substantial feedstock reservoir that could support nearly five billion litres of SAF production within Australia by 2025. This capacity is anticipated to grow to as much as 14 billion litres by the year 2050.
Investing in a domestic SAF industry in Australia offers advantages that extend beyond just reducing emissions. It encompasses benefits like the production of renewable by-products such as renewable diesel and LPG, fostering regional development and job creation, enhancing waste management practices, and bolstering liquid fuel security.
The number one challenge in integrating SAF with Jet Fuel A1 is ensuring a consistent and reliable supply of SAF. Many SAF proposals involve relatively small production volumes, resulting in substantial costs per batch to meet aviation industry standards. This challenge stems from the need for rigorous testing and certification processes, which are essential to ensure the safety and performance of SAF in aviation operations. These costs can pose a barrier to the widespread adoption of SAF, particularly for smaller producers or startups in the industry, and highlight the need for more cost-effective certification procedures to encourage greater SAF production and use. Several factors contribute to this challenge:
- Limited Production Capacity: SAF production capacity is currently limited compared to the demand for aviation fuel. Scaling up production to meet the needs of the aviation industry is a significant challenge.
- Feedstock Availability: The availability of sustainable feedstocks can be inconsistent. Sourcing these feedstocks in sufficient quantities can be challenging, and their availability can be affected by factors like weather conditions and agricultural cycles.
- Production Costs: Producing SAF can be more expensive than traditional jet fuel due to the cost of feedstock and the specialized production processes involved.
- Regulatory Hurdles: Meeting strict aviation fuel standards and regulations is essential. Ensuring that SAF meets these standards consistently can be challenging, requiring investment in refining and testing processes.
- Infrastructure: Existing fuel distribution infrastructure at airports is designed for conventional jet fuel and modifying it to handle SAF adds further cost.
- Market Demand: The aviation industry’s willingness to adopt SAF depends on factors like cost, availability, and government incentives. Ensuring a sufficient demand for SAF is crucial to driving production and integration efforts.
Addressing these challenges requires collaboration among governments, industry stakeholders, and research institutions to promote the integration of SAF with Jet Fuel A1, reducing the aviation industry’s carbon footprint and promoting more sustainable air travel.
In the global aviation industry, SAF adoption varies among regions. Among these, Europe, USA, Japan, and Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) show the greatest enthusiasm for SAF uptake. These regions prioritize sustainable practices in aviation, driven by environmental concerns and regulatory measures. Interestingly, Middle Eastern airlines are emerging as strong competitors in the SAF market. The Middle East, known for its oil resources, has invested significantly in SAF production and distribution, making its airlines highly competitive players in the global SAF landscape.
This indicates a diverse global landscape for SAF adoption, with different regions showcasing varying levels of enthusiasm and competitiveness in embracing sustainable aviation practices.
- Investment in Production Capacity: Governments and aviation industry stakeholders can invest in expanding SAF production facilities, increasing the availability of SAF.
- Diversification of Feedstocks: Efforts can be made to diversify the sources of feedstock for SAF production, such as algae, municipal waste and agricultural residues to reduce dependency on specific feedstock types.
- Research and Development: Continued research and development for more efficient SAF production processes, reducing production costs and increasing supply.
- Incentives and Subsidies: Governments can offer financial incentives, tax breaks, or subsidies to SAF producers.
- Market-Based Mechanisms: Establishing carbon pricing mechanisms or emissions trading systems can provide economic incentives for airlines to use SAF by assigning a value to emissions reductions.
- Economies of Scale: As SAF production increases, economies of scale can lead to cost reductions, making SAF more competitive with conventional jet fuel.
- Engine Adaptations: Aircraft manufacturers can work on developing engines that are compatible with higher SAF blends, ensuring optimal performance.
- Infrastructure Upgrades: Airports and fuel providers can invest in infrastructure upgrades, such as separate storage and distribution systems for SAF, to accommodate its use without disruption to operations.
What Can BE&R Do For You
BE&R are currently actioning the following scopes for clients around the world
- Gateway market analysis
- Determine future demand for SAF
- Determine future synergies with demand for sustainable marine bunker fuel
- Overlay infrastructure and international routes for shipping and aviation, determine optimum hub location
- Determine commercial potential to develop as fuel hub
- Confirm cooperative advantage from combining marine bunkering and SAF infrastructure
- Technology Pathway to deploy methanol and SAF
- Identify regional flow-schemes for feedstock
- Technology reviews
- TECOP analysis of hub, targeting risks and opportunities for development across
- Regulatory and Policy review
- Identification of key stakeholders, support requirements and influence
- Map regulatory landscape
- Policy review
The integration of SAF within the aviation sector is promising—a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future. With diverse stakeholders, a dynamic energy ecosystem, and growing adoption worldwide, SAF offers bright prospects for the future of aviation. #SAF #AviationSustainability #CleanSkiesAhead
CSIRO, 2023, Fuelling Australia’s future sustainable aviation industry, https://www.csiro.au/en/news/all/articles/2023/august/sustainable-aviation-industry-australia#:~:text=Unlike%20conventional%20jet%20fuels%2C%20SAF,compared%20to%20conventional%20jet%20fuels.