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Meet the promising Sustainable Aviation Fuel industry

Meet the promising Sustainable Aviation Fuel industry

Major airlines are collaborating with fuel companies to develop new technologies to produce Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) as a way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, Neste, a world leader in renewable products, and Air BP, a major aviation fuel supplier, have recently formed a partnership to explore how to make SAF more readily available for airlines.

Fossil fuel-based jet fuel has long powered airplanes, but concerns about climate change are pushing the industry towards cleaner alternatives. SAF, derived from renewable sources like used cooking oil, plant waste, and agricultural residues, offers a promising solution.

Honeywell UOP’s ecofining technology pioneers SAF production

Honeywell Universal Oil Products (UOP) company is at the forefront of developing and delivering technology to various industries including petroleum refining, gas processing, petrochemical production, and major manufacturing.

Their ecofining technology powered the production of the SAF used on the world’s first 100% SAF passenger flight on December 1, 2021, operated by United Airlines (NYSE: UAL).

The Ecofining process enables the delivery of commercial volumes of SAF, aiding the aviation industry in reducing its carbon footprint and emissions, and facilitating affordable decarbonization options.

This technology actively produces SAF compliant with renewable energy regulations and sourced from sustainable feedstocks, resulting in a 65-85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.

Why wasn’t SAF widely used before? 

The answer lies in economics. Developing and producing SAF using new technologies is expensive. Traditional jet fuel remains significantly cheaper, making airlines hesitant to switch entirely to SAF. 

As United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told the Financial Times:

“There’s no sustainable aviation fuel that is cost competitive yet with traditional jet fuel.”

Despite these advancements, the aviation industry still faces significant hurdles. A primary challenge is the limited availability of SAF, which is currently only accessible at a few airports globally. This limitation hampers airlines’ capacity to embrace SAF on a broader scale.

Another issue is the phenomenon of “greenwashing,” wherein airlines may falsely portray themselves as environmentally friendly by using minimal SAF blends.

To address these concerns, stakeholders are actively discussing the implementation of mandatory minimum SAF content in blended fuels. This initiative aims to guarantee transparency for eco-conscious travelers.

Critical collaboration with industry leaders

Recognizing the need for a global solution, industry leaders like Lufthansa Group, the largest airline group in Europe, and Shell, a global energy giant, are joining forces in a landmark agreement to improve the global supply chain for SAF. 

This collaboration holds immense importance because aviation spans the globe, requiring solutions that cater to international travel demands.

The agreement they reached in December 2021 doesn’t oblige them to take action, but it outlines their plans for producing and delivering significant amounts of SAF to airports worldwide. They aim to supply about 1.8 million metric tons of SAF over seven years, starting in 2024.

This partnership between a major airline and a leading fuel supplier has the potential to increase SAF availability and speed up its adoption across the aviation industry.

Promising future with SAF

Airlines and fuel companies are collaborating to develop next-generation SAF with the goal of decreasing the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. SAF, which originates from renewable sources, offers a cleaner alternative to conventional jet fuel.

Honeywell UOP’s Ecofining technology is at the forefront, empowering the production of commercial volumes of SAF that agree to stringent safety standards. Nevertheless, challenges persist in terms of cost and limited availability.

Looking forward, promising new technologies and industry collaborations, such as Lufthansa and Shell’s global SAF supply chain initiative, are actively forging the path towards a greener future.

Increased demand from both commercial and military sectors is expected to propel the SAF market. Continued innovation could revolutionize air travel with SAF, ensuring cleaner skies.

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