Sustainable Aviation Fuel

What Is Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)?

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is an alternative fuel for aircraft. Unlike conventional jet fuel, SAF is produced from renewable feedstocks, such as used cooking oil or animal fats. It significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions and presents an opportunity to reduce aviation’s environmental impact. 

The production of SAF starts with collecting raw materials, such as used cooking oil or animal fats. The raw materials are then processed to create a renewable feedstock suitable for use as aviation fuel. This involves several steps, including removing impurities and filtering out contaminants before the resulting product can be blended with conventional jet fuel to create SAF.

There are a number of airlines around the world that use SAF to power their aircraft. These include major airlines such as American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, British Airways, and Lufthansa. Additionally, smaller regional carriers such as Alaska Air Group and Southwest Airlines have also committed to using sustainable aviation fuel.

One way to increase sustainable aviation fuel usage is to replace traditional jet A fuels with more sustainable alternatives. Jet A fuel is a kerosene-type jet fuel used for commercial and military aviation. It has higher flash point requirements than its predecessor, jet A-1, and is used for all jet aircraft operating within the U.S. and Canada. 

A jet fuel blend with sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF) can help reduce the carbon footprint of jet engines without sacrificing engine performance. Additionally, jet engines powered by SAJF emit fewer nitrogen oxides than those fueled by jet A, resulting in better air quality and improved health outcomes.

Why Is SAF Important?

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a sustainable and renewable fuel alternative to traditional jet fuel, and it holds the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commercial flights significantly. SAFs are made from sustainable, renewable sources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, municipal solid waste, and recycled cooking oils. Using sustainable fuels, the airline industry can reduce emissions and take a step toward carbon neutrality.

SAF also is more sustainable than traditional jet fuel because it uses sustainable energy sources, such as solar power or wind turbines, to create the fuel. By using renewable energy sources, SAF reduces reliance on fossil fuels that produce harmful greenhouse gasses when burned. Additionally, sustainable aviation fuels are less likely to contribute to air pollution and ozone depletion since they burn cleaner than traditional jet fuels. 

SAFs are also sustainable because their production process is much less energy intensive than traditional jet fuel. This means that the production of sustainable aviation fuel requires fewer resources and causes less environmental damage. As sustainable fuels become increasingly popular and more widely adopted, they will help the airline industry move towards a sustainable and carbon-neutral future.

Sustainable aviation fuel can potentially be a major contributor to the bioeconomy. Aircraft flights are responsible for 2-3% of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, and SAF provides an opportunity to reduce these emissions through its production with sustainable, renewable resources while still providing the same power output as traditional jet fuel. 

The production of sustainable aviation fuel is part of a larger movement to create an economy powered by renewable energy. By transitioning from fossil fuels, the bioeconomy provides a much-needed shift toward sustainability. This shift can help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality while providing economic opportunities for new green industries.

One way to contribute to sustainable aviation fuel is by engaging in public policy advocacy. By speaking up for stronger environmental regulations and policies, you can help create a landscape that encourages more investment in the development of alternative fuels and incentivizes airlines to transition away from traditional fossil fuels. 

Additionally, support research into less carbon-intensive energy sources and explore ways to reduce the environmental impacts of aviation. Lastly, support efforts to increase efficiency and reduce emissions through investments in new technology, improved operational processes, and better infrastructure. 

Doing these things can help ensure a sustainable future for air travel that is more eco-friendly and resilient to climate change.

The Cost of SAF Compared to Traditional Jet Fuel

Traditional jet fuel, also known as jet A-1 aviation turbine fuel, is a petroleum distillate used for international aviation. It is the most common jet fuel due to its availability and stability in extreme temperatures, from -47°C to 40°C. 

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is an alternative jet fuel made from renewable sources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and woody biomass. It has similar chemical properties to jet A-1 fuel but with lower carbon emissions. SAF is approved for commercial use by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and can be blended with jet A-1 fuel up to a maximum of 50%, depending on the jet engine manufacturer. 

In addition, SAF has a higher energy content than jet A-1 fuel which means it provides more thrust power and greater efficiency, resulting in lower costs for commercial airlines. It also produces fewer emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants such as sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter.

The cost of SAF compared to traditional jet fuel depends on several factors, including availability, production cost, transportation costs, and government incentives. 

Availability is a key factor that affects cost. Currently, SAF is only available in limited locations, and production levels are still relatively low. This means that the price of SAF can be significantly higher than jet fuel due to limited supply and high demand from airlines. 

The production cost of SAF also plays a role in pricing. Depending on the feedstock used to produce SAF, production costs can range from one-third to two-thirds higher than traditional jet fuel. For producers to remain profitable, this added cost must be passed along to consumers. 

Transportation costs also play a role in the price of SAF. The cost of transporting SAF from its production site to the end user can be several times higher than transporting traditional jet fuel. This is due to a need for more infrastructure and specialized equipment needed for transport. 

Finally, government incentives and subsidies can play a role in the cost of SAF. In some countries, governments provide financial support to producers or users of SAF to encourage its use. These incentives can reduce the cost of SAF, making it more competitive with traditional jet fuel.

Sustainable alternative fuels (SAF) are becoming increasingly important in international aviation, offering numerous benefits compared to traditional fossil jet fuel. SAF has a much lower carbon intensity than fossil jet fuel, which can significantly reduce emissions released into the atmosphere during international flights. 

SAF also generates fewer harmful particulate emissions while burning more cleanly and with less noise pollution than traditional fuels. Additionally, SAF is often more cost-effective than fossil jet fuel, allowing international airlines to reduce operational costs and pass on savings to customers. 

As international aviation continues to grow, it’s increasingly important that sustainable alternative fuels become the new standard to protect the environment while continuing to support international travel and commerce.

How Much Carbon Does SAF Save?

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) offers international aviation a viable option to reduce its carbon footprint by lowering carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption

According to the International Air Transport Association, SAF can offer up to 80% lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than traditional jet fuel. This is partly due to the use of renewable energy sources and waste products such as vegetable oil, animal fats, and recycled cooking oil for its production.

Is SAF Suitable for All Aircraft?

Despite the potential environmental benefits of using SAF, it may only be suitable for some aircraft. This is because SAF has different properties from traditional aviation fuel. Some aircraft may not be able to use SAF due to the amount of energy it provides and its resistance to pre-ignition, which can cause engine damage if not managed correctly.

If you are using your aircraft for recreational purposes, it is important to understand that SAF may offer some performance benefits over traditional jet fuels. Due to its lower carbon content and higher energy density, SAF can reduce the fuel needed for a flight, resulting in cost savings. It may also offer improved engine efficiency and smoother operation.

However, SAF may not be a suitable option if you are using your aircraft for business or another purpose requiring higher performance and speed. For example, this type of fuel is not recommended for use in engines designed for high-performance engine operations such as air racing.

GE and CFM commercial jet engines can use SAF. Synthetic aviation fuel (SAF) is renewable energy produced from waste and other non-fossil sources. It has the same chemical makeup as regular aviation fuel and offers several benefits to airlines, including improved efficiency and lower emissions.

Several helicopter manufacturers and operators are also already utilizing SAF in their aircraft. While some additional considerations must be considered when using this fuel, it has been proven reliable for helicopters.

Many airlines around the world are transitioning to more sustainable fuels. In 2020, Alaska Airlines began using a blend of traditional and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on flights out of Seattle Tacoma International Airport. This makes it the first airline in North America to use SAF on regularly scheduled commercial flights. 

Other global airlines that have made commitments to reduce emissions through SAF usage include Lufthansa, KLM, Air France-KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Avianca, and American Airlines.

United Airlines is currently researching the impact using SAF would have on their fleet and how it would affect the performance of their aircraft. The research is ongoing, but if successful, it could be a significant step towards reducing the airline’s carbon footprint and helping to fight climate change.