Aviation industry wants large scale government “incentives” to hugely ramp up SAF

The aviation industry only really has one way to cut its carbon emissions, without hugely cutting the number of passengers and flights. That is changing fuels, to allegedly “sustainable aviation fuel” (SAF). Those fuels can basically be produced from one sort of waste or another, or by using surplus renewably generated electricity (which is already in demand by other sectors). So what constitutes a genuine waste as feedstock, that is not competing with food or doing other environmental harm? Making fuel from domestic waste is hard. Taking crop and forestry wastes brings other environmental problems, such as the definition of waste being stretched too far. Then there is “used” cooking oil, and the problem that much of the oil is in fact virgin oil, that has been deviously branded as used. And there are animal fats and greases, such as beef tallow. Leaving aside the obscene concept of raising sentient animals, in poor conditions, to produce meat, then taking the fat from these sadly abused beings to burn in jet engines. There are many other markets and uses for animal fats, such as tallow. The industry, hell bent not only maintaining the current level of global flying, but increasing it, wants a range of government help and incentives to produce more SAF. 

About 125 million litres of SAF are produced per year now. The global commercial airline industry, in 2019 pre-Covid, used about 430 BILLION litres of jet fuel.


Incentives Needed to Increase SAF Production

21.6.2022  (IATA press release)

30 Billion Litre Tipping Point Possible by 2030

Doha – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for governments to urgently put in place large-scale incentives to rapidly expand the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) as aviation pursues its commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

To fulfil aviation’s net zero commitment, current estimates are for SAF to account for 65% of aviation’s carbon mitigation in 2050. That would require an annual production capacity of 449 billion liters.

Investments are in place to expand SAF annual production from the current 125 million liters to 5 billion by 2025.

With effective government incentives, production could reach 30 billion liters by 2030, which would be a tipping point for SAF production and utilization.

[Global aviation industry used about 95 billion gallons of jet fuel in 2019.  That is over 430 billion litres.   https://www.statista.com/statistics/655057/fuel-consumption-of-airlines-worldwide/ ]

“Governments don’t need to invent a playbook. Incentives to transition electricity production to renewable sources like solar or wind worked. As a result, clean energy solutions are now cheap and widely available. With similar incentives for SAF, we could see 30 billion liters available by 2030. Though still far from where we need to be, it would be a clear tipping point towards our net zero ambition of ample SAF quantities at affordable prices,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General at the 78th IATA Annual General Meeting in Doha, Qatar.

In 2021, irrespective of price (SAF is between two and four times the price of conventional jet fuel), airlines have purchased every drop of the 125 million liters of SAF that was available. And already more than 38 countries have SAF-specific policies that clear the way for the market to develop. Taking their cue from these policy measures, airlines have entered into $17 billion of forward-purchasing agreements for SAF.

Incentives to Ramp-up Production

Further investment in production needs support from the right policies. This would boost supply and drive down costs.

Electricity production through solar or wind power faced similar hurdles as these technologies replaced fossil fuels. With effective policy incentives, both are now affordable and widely available.

By applying similar incentive-based policies to SAF, governments can support global SAF production to reach 30 billion liters by the end of the decade. This would be a tipping point as it would send a clear signal to the market that SAF is playing its intended long-term role in aviation’s decarbonization and encourage investments to drive up production and drive down the price.

The market for SAF needs stimulation on the production side. The United States is setting an example for others to follow. Its SAF production is expected to reach 11 billion liters in 2030 on the back of heavy government incentives.

Europe, on the other hand, is the example not to follow. Under its Fit for 55 initiative, the EU is planning to mandate that airlines uplift 5% SAF at every European airport by 2030. Decentralizing production will delay the development of economies of scale. And forcing the land transport of SAF will reduce the environmental benefit of using SAF.

Other Propulsion Technologies

Hydrogen and electrically powered aircraft are part of aviation’s plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but they are likely to be limited to short-haul routes. SAF is the proven solution for long-haul flying.

“Hydrogen and/or electric propulsion systems will most likely be available for short haul commercial flights by 2035, but the majority of emissions come from long-haul widebody flights and to tackle these emissions, SAF is the only proven solution. We know it works, and we need to double down our efforts to get all actors of the industry on board, including governments, to increase production, availability, and uptake” said Sebastian Mikosz, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Environment and Sustainability.

Net Zero and Long Term Aspirational Goal

In October 2021, IATA member airlines came together and took the monumental decision to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This commitment brings the industry in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal. Climate change is the greatest threat facing our societies and achieving net zero emissions will be a huge challenge as the expected scale of the industry in 2050 will require the mitigation of 1.8 gigatons of carbon.

To provide the right set of consistent policies and long-term stability needed for investments, the aviation industry is calling on all governments to support the adoption of a long term climate goal for air transport at the 41st Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this September, aligned with industry commitments. This climate goal is critical to back up the industry’s decarbonization ambitions and would provide a global multilateral framework for action without distorting competition.

> View Environment & Sustainability presentation (pdf)

Notes for Editors

  • The 78th IATA Annual General Meeting & World Air Transport Summit is taking place in Doha, Qatar, 19-21 June 2022, hosted by Qatar Airways. Some 1,000 aviation leaders from IATA member airlines, governments, industry stakeholders, strategic partners and members of the media are attending the event. Visit the AGM media kit for the latest updates and multi-media content.
  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic.
  • You can follow us at twitter.com/iata for announcements, policy positions, and other useful industry information.
  • Fly Net Zero 



See also

While Still a Trickle, SAF Flow Increases

by Curt Epstein
– May 24, 2022, (AIN online)

In preparation to offload a load of beef tallow feedstock, steam hoses are connected to the tanker to warm the contents so the tallow can easily flow for the next step in converting it to SAF.
There are four pillars on which business aviation is pinning its hopes of meeting its stated sustainability goals: airframe and engine improvements and optimization; new air traffic control technology and procedures; market-based measures such as the purchase of carbon offset credits; and adoption and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

While improvements in aircraft design and technologies will ultimately give rise to new methods of flight such as electric and hydrogen propulsion, it is SAF that represents the biggest potential for carbon reductions in the short and mid-term horizons. But that’s only if production can be scaled up enough to provide meaningful amounts.

In the U.S. last year, the Biden Administration issued the SAF Grand Challenge to encourage the domestic production of at least three billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030. That represents a dramatic increase over current worldwide production, which is estimated by the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) to reach approximately 600 million gallons of 100 percent (neat) SAF by the end of 2022. By 2025, that total is expected to more than triple to about two billion gallons based on currently announced projects.

Included in those developments is a $2 billion upgrade to the World Energy facility in Paramount, California, that will see the former petroleum refinery fully converted to sustainable fuel production and give it an output capacity of 340 million gallons a year by 2025. Also in California, Phillips 66 has decided to convert its San Francisco-area refinery from petroleum to renewable fuels. The $850 million project will produce an initial 800 million gallons a year of renewable transportation fuels starting in the first quarter of 2024.

Last week, a consortium of energy industry companies led by SGP BioEnergy announced it partnered with the Panamanian government to launch what will become the world’s largest biofuel production and distribution hub. Dubbed the Golden City Biorefinery, the facility is expected to begin production in 2024 at an output of 60,000 barrels per day initially, expanding to a full capacity of 180,000 barrels daily, or 2.6 billion gallons annually, of sustainable fuels—including SAF—derived from purpose-grown plant oils and waste fats by 2027.

Major renewable fuel producer Neste recently announced it is modifying its Rotterdam, the Netherlands, refinery to better enable SAF production. Currently, the facility is geared mainly toward renewable diesel output, but the nearly $200 million upgrade will give it the option to produce up to 500,000 tonnes of SAF a year as part of the existing capacity. Combined with the company’s ongoing Singapore refinery expansion, Neste will have the capacity to produce 1.5 million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel annually by the end of 2023.

SAF is approved for use in blends with conventional jet-A at up to 50 percent, but tests by airframers, engine manufacturers, and operators are ongoing to someday enable 100 percent SAF usage. At that level, the fuel can provide lifecycle carbon emission savings of up to 80 percent compared to standard petroleum-based jet-A. Typical blends in use today are 30 percent SAF.

In Europe, proposed as part of the European Commission’s Fit for 55 climate package, the ReFuelEU Aviation regulation would impose a mandate on fuel suppliers to make SAF available at EU airports. While the current supply of SAF is less than 0.1 percent of industry volume worldwide, starting in 2025 the obligation would require 2 percent of the overall aviation fuel supply to consist of SAF, gradually increasing to 63 percent in 2050.

Though some countries such as Norway have already initiated quota mandates on the use of SAF, the European Commission noted that while sustainable aviation fuels have the potential to significantly reduce aircraft emissions, this potential is largely untapped. That is because such fuels represent a very small percentage of total jet-A consumption.

According to business aviation sustainability advisory 4Air, which provides an online SAF-tracking map, the eco-friendly fuel is curently available at a handful of locations in the UK, including Luton, Biggin Hill, and Farnborough airports in the London area, and Hawarden Airport in Chester. In a demonstration last year, Neste-provided SAF was introduced at Gatwick Airport for commercial aircraft use.

Across the English Channel, business aviation operators can find SAF at Paris Le Bourget and Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne airports in France, and at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Among the newest locations is Vienna International Airport after Miami-based AEG Fuels recently announced it has partnered with Austrian aviation fuel producer OMV to provide SAF to the airport through the latter’s direct pipeline to the airport.

OMV’s SAF is produced at its Schwechat refinery with used cooking oil collected by local firm Münzer Bioindustrie, which makes the production chain as regional as possible and reduces transport considerations. The two companies will market the fuel for on-demand sales mainly to the general aviation market.


There are seven pathways approved by ASTM International for the production of SAF. But, according to CAAFI executive director Steve Csonka, at least 15 more processes are in the pipeline toward earning approval under ATSM D7566—the specification for jet fuel. The certification of additional production processes will continue to expand SAF supply, he said.

These processes use a wide range of feedstocks, with one of the crucial considerations being that they do not compete with food products. World Energy uses beef tallow with seemingly-endless trains of railcars of the meat waste flowing into its Los Angeles-area facility. Used cooking oils and grease from animals and plants are used by Neste to manufacture its MY Neste fuel.

[Beef tallow can be used by many other sectors, including  pet food. It does not need to be turned into jet fuel.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/tallow   AW comment]

Earlier this year, bp began co-processing SAF alongside conventional crude oil stocks at its Lingen, Germany refinery. It is the first industrial production facility in the country to use co-processing, which allows up to 5 percent SAF feedstock to be incorporated into the mix.

The company has been advocating for the limit of SAF feedstock co-processing to be increased to as much as 30%, according to Laura Bowden, Air bp’s global marketing manager. “We think that will benefit global [SAF] supply given the number of existing refineries today that can, over time, transition from fossil feedstocks through to sustainable feedstocks as well.”

Like many fuel providers, bp is betting heavily on renewable fuels as it estimates conventional oil and gas production is expected to decline by 40% from 2019 levels by 2030. In its fourth-quarter earnings call, bp anticipated its investment in five major biofuels projects, including the conversion of up to two refineries.

Other potential sources include municipal solid waste (household garbage); recycled construction materials; agricultural waste, such as corn husks and grain hulls; forestry waste; salt marsh grasses; seaweeds and algae; fermented sugar cane juice; non-food, high oilseed crops, such as camelina, carinata, and jatropha; and even non-recyclable plastics.

Hitting on that last note, London-based renewable fuel startup Clean Planet Energy (CPE) launched a new SAF produced from plastics that would otherwise be simply incinerated or put into landfills. CPE has a production plant already under construction in Teeside in the UK and as many as 11 more under development worldwide.

Through CPE’s proprietary process, plastic hydrocarbons are broken down into small chains, which are then upgraded into new products such as SAF and petrochemical feedstocks from which new recyclable plastics can be manufactured. Bp just signed a 10-year offtake agreement for the output of the Teeside facility, which can process 20,000 tonnes of waste plastic a year.

When it comes to feedstocks, even the air itself can be used. A team of Swiss researchers at public research university ETH Zurich announced last year that they have developed technology to produce SAF using nothing but air and sunlight.

Their sun-to-liquid process converts the compounds carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) into CO and H2 in a specific ratio known as syngas. The final step converts the syngas into liquid hydrocarbons. By tailoring the syngas composition, the researchers were able to produce either drop-in synthetic methanol or kerosene that would be fully compatible with existing infrastructure and fuel supplies.

A spin-off company known as Synhelion has licensed the technology and is building the first industrial facility for the production of carbon-neutral solar fuel in Jülich, Germany, with the start of fuel production anticipated as early as next year.