The global aviation sector, like other sectors worldwide, is focusing on developing innovative solutions to limit its carbon footprint. The aviation sector today is relying greatly on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as an alternative to reduce carbon emissions. According to the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), the global aviation industry presently accounts for about 2% of all human-induced carbon dioxide emissions and SAF has emerged as one of the viable solutions to curb emissions. SAF is derived from renewable sources, unlike conventional aviation fuel that is produced from crude oil, a non-renewable fossil source. It is derived from a wide variety of feedstocks such as municipal solid waste, cellulosic waste, used cooking oil, camelina, etc., and is relatively purer when compared to conventional jet fuel, which results in less particulate emissions and sulfur dioxide.
As a result of the growing importance of SAF, some of the leading oil and gas companies are focusing on the production and supply of SAF to airlines. Companies such as BP and Shell have collaborated with SAF producers to enhance the supply of SAF to different airline customers while TotalEnergies and Eni SpA are producing SAF. Pure-play renewable fuel production companies such as Fulcrum Bioenergy and SkyNRG are also producing SAF.
Though global production of SAF is insignificant at present, it is expected to take off in the future considering the efforts of several oil and gas companies to become carbon neutral. Conversion of crude oil refineries to complete renewable fuel plants or co-processing plants and construction of new renewable fuel facilities are gaining momentum and are expected to accelerate SAF production in the future.
Global demand for SAF is expected to receive a boost on account of initiatives undertaken by several countries globally to meet their goals of reducing GHG emissions, especially North American and European countries. The UK Government has undertaken a Jet Zero plan that aims to reduce carbon emissions from transatlantic flights to zero by 2050. In line with its Jet Zero plan, the UK Government has funded Velocys, a producer of aviation biofuels, for the development of a commercial scale SAF production facility in Immingham, UK.