Partnerships Advance SAF Research And Production
How to grow and prioritize sustainable fuels for aviation has turned into a key focus area across the industry, while the number of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) partnerships and projects continues to grow.
Governments should prioritize the aviation sector for the use of renewable fuels, Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) director general Subhas Menon said at a media roundtable in Singapore.
He said that while battery-operated vehicles are now an accepted and viable alternative energy source, such technology is not possible in aviation, which will be limited to very short trips based on current technologies. SAF, he said, is by far the most significant and fastest way to reduce carbon emissions. He also noted that renewable diesel refineries often split production capacity for various fuel types.
Saying the industry cannot be “half sustainable,” Menon called for the governments of market leaders such as the US and Europe Union (EU) to come together and develop solutions and policies that are applicable to other regions in a global manner.
A report co-authored by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and Boeing says that government, industry and research sectors must work together to overcome challenges—including feedstock availability, supply chain constraints, and aligning to international standards and regulations. One of the key aims of the report is “identifying opportunities to produce and scale [SAF] production using Australian feedstocks,” CSIRO said.
The roadmap authors estimate that if feedstock supply is improved, “Australia is currently sitting on enough resources to produce almost 5 billion liters [1.3 billion gal.] of SAF by 2025.” This amount could supply nearly 60% of Australia’s jet fuel demand projected for 2025, CSIRO says.
Feedstock could come from agricultural waste and residues in the near term. The report identifies available material such as sugarcane, sawmill residues and municipal solid waste. In the medium to long term, hydrogen and carbon dioxide could be used for SAF production.
Flag carrier Qantas has been pushing for the creation of an Australian SAF industry and has established an A$400 million ($264 million) fund to help with its development. Airbus has also contributed to this fund.
In the meantime, new projects to boost SAF production are being rolled out in the EU and the US.
Switzerland-based Varo Energy plans to invest $600 million in construction of a large-scale SAF production facility in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Planned to begin production in late 2026, the plant will have the capacity to produce 245,000 metric tons (80.9 million gal.) of SAF per year.
At full capacity, Varo says the new plant at the Gunvor Energy Rotterdam site could provide up to 7% of the fuel required to meet the EU’s mandated target for SAF to account for 5% of jet fuel consumption by 2030. The plant will produce HEFA SAF from 350,000 metric tons per year of waste fats, oils and grease.
In the US, two projects that could help boost the production of SAF have been cleared to enter loan guarantee and grant negotiations with the Department of Energy: Colorado-based biofuels company Gevo’s Net-Zero 1 ethanol-to-jet project and carbon capture startup 1PointFive’s development of its South Texas Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hub.
Gevo’s Net-Zero 1 ethanol-to-jet project will begin the due diligence and term sheet negotiation phase for a $950 million loan guarantee, and 1PointFive’s DAC Hub, to be located on the King Ranch in Klebert County, has the potential to remove and store in saline formations up to 30 million metric tons of CO2 per year. United Airlines is an investor in 1PointFive.
AIRLINE SAF INVESTMENTS
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is launching a new service in its SAF Flight Initiative, a program dedicated to reducing CO2 emission levels through the use of SAF. Through the new service, Tokyo-based ANA will extend the SAF Flight Initiative offering to companies that use air cargo to transport and deliver products, and provide a solution to visualize and reduce indirect CO2 emissions. The new service includes ANA issuing CO2 reduction certificates to companies based on the transportation record from their freight forwarders. This will allow companies to earn Scope 3 certificates and help them achieve their environmental goals.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is part of a Minnesota coalition to meet SAF needs at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). The first-of-its-kind coalition also includes water treatment company Ecolab, power utility Xcel Energy and Bank of America. Leading the coalition, regional economic development agency Greater MSP Partnership says the Minnesota SAF Hub is the first in the US to involve collaboration across an integrated value chain, from feedstock sourcing and processing to fuel production and its use at MSP, in a multiphase approach to scaling SAF availability.
UK-based International Airlines Group (IAG) and Microsoft signed a co-funded purchase agreement for SAF emissions reductions, where both parties are funding part of the cost of the supply. Microsoft will co-fund 14,700 tonnes of IAG’s SAF purchasing in 2023, enough to fully fuel approximately 300 British Airways’ (BA) Boeing 787 flights between London and Seattle.
SAF produced from used cooking oil and food waste will be supplied to IAG airlines—BA, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling—operating from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports during 2023. The SAF will be provided by Phillips 66 Limited’s Humber Refinery, which is the UK’s only industrial scale producer of SAF.
Germany’s H2Fly has completed the first flights of a hydrogen-electric aircraft using cryogenic liquid-hydrogen storage. The piloted HY4 demonstrator performed four flights from Maribor, Spain, including one lasting more than 3 hr. Powered by a fuel-cell propulsion system, the HY4 previously was flown using pressurized gaseous-hydrogen storage. Results of the latest flights indicate using liquid hydrogen (LH2) will double the HY4’s maximum range to 1,500 km (930 mi.).
“This achievement marks a watershed moment in the use of hydrogen to power aircraft,” H2Fly co-founder Josef Kallo says. “We have demonstrated the viability of liquid hydrogen to support medium- and long-range emission-free flight.”
A group of companies in the UK aviation and renewable energy sectors—including UK LCC easyJet, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Ørsted, GKN Aerospace and Bristol Airport—have established the Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance to accelerate the delivery of zero carbon aviation. HIA said it will work to ensure the UK capitalizes on the huge opportunity hydrogen presents to both the aviation industry and the country as a whole.
While there are various options for decarbonizing the aviation sector, including SAF, synthetic fuels or batteries, HIA believes that more attention should be paid to the potential of the direct use of hydrogen.
Launching the alliance in London, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the members were unaware of any similar grouping elsewhere in the world.
“We want to be that forum that engages with governments—and opposition parties, for that matter—and says, ‘Look, these are the milestones that need to happen for this to become a reality,’” Lundgren said.
Opposition parties will need to be involved, as the length of time needed to bring hydrogen online in the necessary quantities will span several administrations.