Explainer: Alternative aviation fuel (SAF) as the key to green aviation

Sustainable aviation fuel, its importance for reducing CO2 emissions in aviation and current challenges

Alternative aviation fuel SAF

Author: House of Eden

  • Importance and necessity of SAF for the decarbonization of aviation
  • Companies and airlines that want to use SAF
  • SAF cost and production challenges

Low-carbon sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plays a critical role in reducing aviation emissions. The sector, responsible for over 2% of global CO2 emissions, faces the challenge of increasing demand and the difficulty of switching to alternative energy sources. Enter SAF, a chemically similar fuel to conventional jet fuel but made from biological waste, and can produce up to 80% fewer net emissions.

Actors and engagement

Over 30 airlines have already committed to increasing their SAF consumption by 2030. Large companies such as Finnish refiner Neste, the world's largest SAF producer, are leaders in the production of this environmentally friendly fuel. Neste plans to produce three-quarters of a billion liters of SAF by 2026 and has stepped up production by retooling and expanding refineries. This shows the growing interest and commitment of various stakeholders in the field of SAF.

Challenges and solutions

Despite the benefits and commitment, SAF's price is a significant hurdle. SAF remains more than twice as expensive as conventional jet fuel due to the limited amount of raw materials and collection costs. However, new technologies could provide relief by converting solid waste and algae into SAF, thereby alleviating the cost problem. In addition, companies like Neste are working on optimizing their logistics and production in order to further reduce costs.

The conversion and expansion of refineries for SAF also presents challenges, particularly in relation to political and regulatory controls. However, Neste has developed innovative approaches to convert existing refineries and increase production capacity.

Conclusion

SAF is very important for the decarbonization of aviation. Despite current cost and production challenges, there are promising developments and technologies that could help overcome these obstacles. With increasing commitment from airlines, businesses and governments, there is optimism that SAF will play a key role in the green future of aviation.

Although the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on SAF production is limited, the legislation highlights the need for long-term action and investment in SAF technology. The increasing demand from consumers and the willingness of airlines to offer SAF indicate a growing awareness and interest in more sustainable flying.

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