Aviation industry growth is great for airlines and travelers, but it's not so great for the environment. More planes in the sky means more CO2 emissions. And while today's aircraft are more fuel efficient, the fuel itself still needs a major upgrade. That's where sustainable aviation fuel comes in.
What Is Sustainable Aviation Fuel?
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is the name for jet fuel produced from sustainable sources – fuel that doesn't add to climate change. Feedstocks, the raw materials used to create SAF, can range from algae, used cooking oil, plant oils, household waste and more.
SAF is made and used in commercial flights every day. Current volumes are low, at less than 1% of the jet fuel actually needed. This is why it's vital that airlines and policymakers need to come together to increase these volumes.
"In the medium term, SAF will be the only energy solution to mitigate the emissions growth of the industry."
The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) lists three key advantages of SAF for aviation in the Beginner's Guide to Sustainable Aviation Fuel:
- Environmental benefits: SAF produces up to 80% less CO2 over its lifecycle when compared to conventional jet fuel.
- Diversified supply: There's a more diverse geographic supply when it comes to SAF production, as it's not limited to fossil fuel drilling locations.
- Economic and social benefits: SAF can reduce airlines' exposure to the fluctuating price of crude oil. There are also economic benefits for developing nations that have suitable land for SAF feedstock growth.
The infographic below outlines key milestones for SAF. It also shows what IATA does and what governments can do to advance the development of SAF. Finally, we present some challenges and opportunities.
You can download this infographic as a PDF.
What's Next for Sustainable Aviation Fuel?
The aviation industry has called on governments to help potential SAF suppliers. In its publication Powering the Future of Flight, ATAG presented six recommendations that can help this transition.
- Foster research into new feedstock sources and refining processes
- De-risk public and private investments in SAF
- Provide incentives for airlines to use SAF from an early stage
- Encourage stakeholders to commit to robust international sustainability criteria
- Understand and foster local opportunities for green growth
- Establish coalitions encompassing all parts of the supply chain.
The whole industry must work together to bring SAF to a commercial scale. Let's see what can be achieved!