Sustainable Aviation Fuel – Full Steam Ahead
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is the future for powering airline jets around the world. In the coming years, this clean fuel substitute is expected to become the main fuel source for commercial aircraft and business jets.
High demand for sustainable aviation fuel production exists for airlines to meet their carbon emission goals in the future. By 2026 onwards, the aviation industry will need ample amounts of sustainable aviation fuel. The industry demand alone, according to leading industry experts on the subject, for just a synthetic fuel blend up to 50% would require some 85 plants operating annually, costing $500 billion just in SAF production facilities.
At Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, LLC (NWABF), we are turning our vision for sustainable aviation fuel production into a reality. Here’s a look at all the reasons why sustainable aviation fuels will become the dominant fuel for airlines around the world.
What is Sustainable Aviation Fuel?
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is the industry term used to describe an aviation fuel not made from petroleum, but from non-conventional sources. Today’s new technologies are seeing efforts being made in producing aviation fuels from various biological resources (material from plants or animals), woody biomass, and forest debris.
Today, more SAF is being produced not from petroleum, but from sustainable feedstocks such as waste oils, wood, agriculture residues, or non-fossil CO2. Wood is a cellulosic material, high in carbon and BTU’s, which makes it ideal for fuel. It’s cleaner than coal and plentiful in certain parts of the world.
SAF with Northwest Advanced
NWABF’s chosen technology is a closed system, eliminating these harmful emissions from the wood.
Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels has partnered with a world-class gasification company to use technology that takes woody biomass that was headed for the landfills and turn it into sustainable aviation fuel. The gasification process produces “synthetic” gas, similar to natural gas, by heating the wood to approximately 1300 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.
After cooling, the synthetic gas is processed to produce sustainable aviation fuel with higher performance ratings, near-zero emissions, low sulfur and C02. The gas then becomes the sustainable aviation fuel that airlines are moving towards using.
Cleaning Up the Air
A major benefit of sustainable aviation fuel is that it will help reduce the carbon emissions from commercial flights and have a more positive impact on our world’s air.
A report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) reveals CO2 emissions from airlines rose by 32% between 2013-2018. And in this period prior to the coronavirus, CO2 emissions from global commercial flights rose 70% higher than originally forecasted by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Additionally, the report showed that the United States held nearly a quarter of all global aviation CO2 emissions (24%) in that 5-year period, with China and the UK following behind.
Airline Industry Commitment
Airline company members of The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association for the world’s airlines, are fully committed to lowering carbon emissions through the use of sustainable aviation fuel. This focus has been identified by the IATA as one of the major goals for the future of aviation.
The IATA oversees requirements over the production of SAF, that it:
- Can be safely mixed with regular jet fuel for an efficient blend
- WIll not require changes to aircraft or engines
- Meets existing rules for conventional jet fuel, i.e. new certified technical pathways under ASTM guidelines
Key Benefits of Sustainable Aviation Fuel
There are a number of ways in which sustainable aviation fuel use is beneficial to airlines and states, over the use of traditional jet fuel. Here are a few key ones:
CO2 Reduction / Cleaner Air:
Reducing CO2 emissions by at least 80% over conventional jet fuel is clearly one of the main benefits of using sustainable aviation fuel. This will help to meet the airline industry’s need for SAF to be:
- Safer and more effective than traditional jet fuels
- Better for the environment than traditional fuels
- Able to produce viable commercial results for airlines
Using SAF also lowers direct emissions, compared to traditional jet fuel. Air quality at or near airports therefore becomes cleaner when these emissions are reduced.
More diversified supply sources:
As with petroleum suppliers, more sustainable aviation suppliers will start producing SAF, and this will create a wider supply and more secure energy resources for airlines.
Higher fuel efficiency:
There is a greater amount of energy density in SAF, and this will help to translate into improved fuel efficiency, making for more efficient payloads.
Economic and social benefits:
Producing SAF will help to bring major economic and social benefits to parts of the world. This could be areas where feedstock, municipal waste, and unusable land for food crops are available and can be utilized to produce sustainable aviation fuel.
For example, our NWABF project in Gray’s Harbor, Washington, the local Quinault Indian Nation is one of our suppliers of the woody biomass (which includes slash, dead trees, treetops left from regular timber operations/maintenance, bark, and sawdust) to the Project. This participation will increase its revenues from approximately 200,000 acres of forests near the Project. Since the Project will produce hundreds of jobs during construction, the local Quinault Indian Nation could benefit from jobs and economic gain.
We are very excited about the future of sustainable aviation fuel. Keep your eye on this space for exciting developments ahead!
David P. Smoot
David Smoot has an extensive business background in computers & real estate before renewable energy which morphed into renewable fuels. Smoot has created a turnkey solution model not yet seen in the industry.