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Innovation Takes Flight With Sustainable Aviation Fuels

In 2022, the aviation trade accounted for two% of worldwide CO2 emissions, drawing consideration to the trade’s considerably sooner charge of emissions development in comparison with rail, highway, or delivery. Because the aviation trade grows exponentially, the strain is on for nation and trade results in put in place net-zero aviation objectives, with the biggest alternative for discount being through the scaling up of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). SAFs are different fuels, produced from non-petroleum feedstocks, which cut back emissions from air transportation by greater than 10% in comparison with conventional jet gas.

Simply final month, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic each made headlines for finishing up demonstration flights powered by 100% SAF. Whereas these are main milestones, they highlighted the necessity for additional technological developments to scale up SAF. Certainly, there may be excessive potential for innovation in SAF, with start-ups capitalizing on numerous segments of the worth chain, receiving investments and partnering with airways through manufacturing and offtake agreements. 

Current Offers and Partnerships from November 2023:

  • Infinium obtained $75M in Progress fairness from Breakthrough Power Catalyst to assist Mission Roadrunner, which is able to convert waste CO2 and renewable energy into SAF and different low-carbon fuels. Together with the funding, there shall be a gas offtake settlement with American Airways and additional monetary assist from Citi.
  • SkyNRG obtained $190M in Progress fairness from Macquarie Asset Administration’s GIG Power Transition Options Fund. The funds shall be used to construct SAF services in Europe and the U.S. by 2030.
  • ‘Mission Speedbird’, a collaboration between Nova Pangaea, LanzaJet, and British Airways, has secured $11M in authorities funding for SAF manufacturing. The SAF shall be developed utilizing Nova Pangea’s know-how that converts agricultural waste and wooden residue feedstocks into ethanol, and LanzaJet’s know-how that converts ethanol into SAF.
  • Zero Petroleum partnered with Boeing to collectively set up a testing program for Zero’s SAF on the College of Sheffield’s Power Innovation Centre (EIC) and its SAF analysis facility.
  • ‘Flight100’, a collaboration by a Virgin Atlantic-led consortium, together with Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Imperial Faculty London, College of Sheffield, ICF, and Rocky Mountain Institute, in partnership with the UK Division for Transport, flew a 100% SAF industrial flight.

Beneath the Worldwide Aviation Transport Authority (IATA) net-zero emissions objectives set in Could 2021; 38 airways have dedicated to net-zero emissions by 2050. It’s anticipated that roughly 65% of present emission ranges can be abated by SAF and the trade will want 330-445 million tons of SAF per yr by 2050 with a purpose to obtain this objective. A number of completely different pathways for SAF manufacturing have been explored, involving numerous feedstocks and applied sciences.


Observe: SAF varieties in gray are accepted by ASTM however are principally not in manufacturing


9 pathways for commercial-scale SAF have been accepted by the American Society of Testing and Supplies (ASTM), with mixing charges of 10-50% with conventional jet gas. HEFA is at present the one commercially deployed pathway however has limitations with scaling up resulting from its inherent dependance on feedstock availability. Alcohol-to-jet pathways and Fischer-Tropsch processes are in industrial pilot phases and present promise in scaling up.

Insurance policies such because the ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative, the Inflation Discount Act tax credit within the U.S., and different international locations’ mixing mandates are anticipated to drastically enhance the manufacturing of SAF in coming years. Because of the a number of rising insurance policies, the price of inaction, such CO2 non-compliance prices will quickly outweigh typical jet gas price financial savings for airways.

Whereas robust coverage initiatives and social concern over carbon emissions are driving airways to extend their SAF adoption, a number of financial and technical limitations exist which might be stopping the instant scaling up of the SAF market. Essentially the most important financial barrier is that at present, SAF is roughly 2-5 instances costlier than conventional gas prices and requires favorable tax and subsidy insurance policies to turn out to be possible for airways to make use of within the short-term. Some key technical limitations are:

  • Most mixing laws of fifty%
  • Total shortage of waste-based feedstocks
  • A scarcity of aromatics included in present Fischer-Tropsch pathways
  • The quantity of renewable power required to transform electrical energy into cleaner fuels.

Innovation by start-ups and incumbents are serving to to bridge the hole between SAF applied sciences and commercially-viable pathways. For instance, biomass refining innovation broadens potential feedstocks that can be utilized for SAF manufacturing. The Nationwide Renewable Power Laboratory (NREL) is facilitating start-ups, similar to Alder Renewables and Lanzajet, and incumbents to make use of their services to pilot refinery know-how. With regard to main conversion innovation, start-ups similar to Twelve and Dioxycle are innovating strategies to allow the manufacturing of syngas with out the necessity for the reverse water gasoline shift course of.

In jet gas manufacturing innovation, producers are experimenting with a variety of catalyst and conversion applied sciences to cut back power necessities and the necessity for fragrant components. For instance, OXCCU is engaged on one step manufacturing of jet gas from syngas to cut back capital prices and power utilization through course of optimization. Different improvements embrace these in additional environment friendly conversion of methanol-to-jet processes (e.g., Metafuels), modular reactors to allow decentralized manufacturing (e.g., Ineratec), and different alcohol-to-jet manufacturing to provide aromatics (e.g., Common Gas Applied sciences).

Subsequent Steps to Look Out For:

  • As extra hubs for hydrogen manufacturing and carbon seize are being developed globally, there may be extra alternative for brand new pathway innovation with hydrogen and CO2
  • Extra innovation to make sure that SAF can be utilized as a drop-in substitute for conventional jet fuels such that plane engines don’t must be modified to make use of it
  • Comparatively early-stage know-how for e-fuels implies that we are able to count on extra breakthroughs in multi-step power conversion processes.




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