; What is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)? | Strive

The aviation sector must find ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Aviation has, in fact, been pointed out as one of the hard-to-abate sectors. Despite the current challenges, Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) have emerged as one of the key elements in this path towards decarbonization. Although when an aircraft uses SAF the emissions coming out of the aircraft are fairly similar to those produced by conventional fuel, the net emissions are reduced on a Lifecycle basis, that is, considering the complete production method and feedstock source. The difference between conventional jet and SAF lies on the fact that carbon from fossil fuels is extracted from the ground and emitted into the air, while SAF carbon comes from carbon captured, waste or biomass which is carbon already present in the system or that would be released to the atmosphere as biomass degrades.

SAF is the term commonly used by the aviation industry to describe any non- conventional aviation fuel. The characteristics of a certified SAF are similar to those of conventional jet fuel, meaning that it can be safely mixed and that they use the same supply infrastructure as conventional fuels. Fuels with these properties are called “drop-in fuels” (i.e., fuels that can be incorporated into existing airport fuelling systems). In addition, in order to use the term “sustainable”, they must meet specific sustainability criteria related to the lifecycle carbon emissions reduction and other sustainability considerations. Sustainability criteria have been developed under several legislations, such as the European Commission’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED-II) and under ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme (CORSIA).

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), over 300,000 flights have been performed using SAF. It is now clear that the technology is available but as of today, there is still a significant barrier for large scale production: the cost of SAF is currently more than double the cost of conventional fuel. These costs can only decline with an increase in efficiency as production moves to a larger scale. However, SAF faces a chicken-and-egg scenario in which both producers and potential consumers cannot or are not willing to overcome the initial cost burden of investing in new technologies to make them cost competitive.

Therefore, what can be done to close this gap? Stakeholders tend to agree that it should be a combination of several factors including technological improvement, supportive policy framework and adequate financing mechanisms. However, corporations can also have an important role in supporting the scale up through voluntary climate action.

In line with the need for a supportive policy framework, in July 2021, the European Commission (EC) proposed a blending mandate in the context of the “Fit for 55” package. The proposal includes a blending mandate, which starts at 2% in 2025 and increases gradually up to 63% in 2050 with specific sub-mandates for power-to-liquid fuels. It also includes uplifting obligations for airlines and obligations for EU airports to provide the necessary infrastructure.

The EU-wide mandate appears to be an important step forward towards upscaling the market and providing security for investors, but the consolidation of a SAF market may still require some years. The reduction of this existing price gap and the use of SAF can also be seen as an opportunity for organizations willing to address the scope 3 emissions coming from their corporate travel and freight. Strive, a Vertis brand, currently partners with SkyNRG, a global leader for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) solutions, to offer organizations solutions to reduce emissions from air travel and help accelerate the transition to future climate-friendly flying. If you are interested in knowing more about this, do not hesitate to get in contact with us.