Sustainable aviation fuel

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Oslo [OSL] was the first international airport to offer SAF as part of the fuel mix since 2016, followed by Los Angeles [LAX] and Stockholm [ARN]. European project ITAKA - led by the Spanish public body SENASA -

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is the name given to advanced aviation biofuel types used in jet aircraft and certified as being sustainable by a reputable independent third-party, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). This certification is in addition to the safety and performance certification, issued by global standards body ASTM International,[1] that all jet fuel is required to meet in order to be approved for use in regular passenger flights.


In 2019, United Airlines renewed its contract with Boston-based World Energy, agreeing to purchase up to 10 million gallons of SAF on a commercial scale and at a competitive cost over the next two years.

A SAF sustainability certification verifies that the fuel product, mainly focussing on the biomass feedstock, has met criteria focussed around long-term global environmental, social and economic "triple-bottom-line" sustainability considerations. Under many carbon emission regulation schemes, such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, a certified SAF product may be granted an exemption from an associated carbon compliance liability cost.[2]  This marginally improves the economic competitiveness of environmentally favourable SAF over traditional fossil-based jet fuel. However, in the near term there are several commercialisation and regulatory hurdles that are yet to be overcome through the collaboration of a variety of stakeholders for SAF products to meet price parity with traditional jet fuel and to enable widespread uptake.[3]

The first reputable body to launch a sustainable biofuel certification system applicable to SAF was the academic European-based Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) NGO.[4] This multi-stakeholder organization set a global benchmark standard on which the sustainability integrity of advanced aviation biofuel types seeking to use the claim of being a Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be judged. Leading airlines in the aviation industry and other signatories to the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) pledge support the RSB as the preferred provider of SAF certification.[5] These airlines believe it important for any proposed aviation biofuels have independently certified sustainable biofuel long term environmental benefits compared to the status quo in order to ensure their successful uptake and marketability [6]

Scheme Sustainability Criteria
EU RED II Recast (2018)

GHG reduction - Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation sustainable fuels must be lower than those from the fossil fuels they replace: at least 50% for production facilities prior to 5 October 2015, a mandatory reduction of 60% for production facilities after that date and 65% for sustainable fuels (SAF) produced in facilities starting operations after 2021.

Land use change - Carbon stocks and biodiversity: raw materials for sustainable fuel production cannot be sourced from land with high biodiversity or high carbon stocks (i.e. primary and protected forests, biodiversity-rich grasslands, wetlands and peatlands).

Other sustainability issues are set out in the Governance Regulation and may be covered by certification schemes on a voluntary basis.


GHG Reduction - Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative fuel for reactors will generate net GHG reductions of at least 10% compared to fossil fuel for reactors, based on the life cycle.

Carbon Stock - Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative Fuel will not be produced from biomass obtained from land whose uses changed after 1st January 2008 and which has been from primeval forests, wetlands or peatlands, as all these lands have high carbon stocks. Criterion 2: In the case of a change in land use after 1st January 2008, as defined on the basis of the IPCC land categories, emissions from direct land use change (DLUC) shall be calculated. If the greenhouse gas emissions from a DLUC exceed the default value of the land use change induced (ILUC), the value of the DLUC will replace the default value of the ILUC.

Global impact[edit]

Used Cooking Oil, a validated raw material for certain sustainable aviation fuels.

As emissions trading schemes and other carbon compliance regimes are emerging globally certain biofuels are likely to be exempt, "zero rated", by governments from having an associated carbon compliance liability due to their closed-emissions-loop renewable nature if they can also prove their wider sustainability credentials. For example, in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme it has been proposed by SAFUG that only aviation biofuels that have been certified as sustainable by the RSB or similar bodies would be zero rated.[7] This proposal has been accepted.[8] SAFUG was formed by a group of interested airlines in 2008 under the auspices of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and in cooperation with support from NGOs such as Natural Resources Defense Council. Member airlines represent more than 15% of the industry, and all member CEOs have signed a pledge to work on the development and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel.[9][10]

In addition to SAF certification, the integrity of aviation biofuel producers and their product can be assessed by further means such as by using Richard Branson's Carbon War Room [11] Renewable Jet Fuels initiative.[12] (which currently cooperates which such companies as LanzaTech, SG Biofuels, AltAir, Solazyme, Sapphire). A leading independent NGO focused on this issue is the Sustainable Sky Institute [13]

Certified Processes[edit]

Abbreviation Conversion Process Possible Feedstocks Blending Ratio Commercialization Proposals / Projects
FT-SPK Fischer-Tropsch hydroprocessed synthesized paraffinic kerosene Coal, Natural Gas, Biomass 50% Fulcrum Bioenergy, Red Rock Biofuels, SG Preston, Kaidi Finland, Sasol, Shell Oil Company, Syntroleum
HEFA-SPK Synthesized paraffinic kerosene produced from hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids Bio-Oils, Animal Fat, Recycled Oils 50% World Energy, Universal Oil Products, Neste, Dynamic Fuels, EERC
SIP-HFS Synthesized kerosene isoparaffins produces from hydroprocessed fermented sugars Biomass used for sugar production 10% Amyris (company), Total S.A.
SPK/A Synthesized kerosene with aromatics derived by alkylation of light aromatics from non-petroleum sources Coal, Natural Gas, Biomass 50% Sasol
ATJ-SPK Alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene Biomass from ethanol or isobutanol production 50% Gevo, Cobalt, Universal Oil Products, Lanzatech, Swedish Biofuels, Byogy

Commitment of the air transport industry[edit]

The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) and its Member States have set clear objectives to address the challenges posed by climate change.

Basket of measures.jpg

The 39th session of the ICAO Assembly reiterated a global commitment to the environmental objectives to which the international aviation sector aspires. In relation to increased fuel efficiency, they committed to an operational and efficiency improvement of 2 per cent per annum; and to maintaining the industry's net carbon emissions from 2020[14] onwards - carbon neutral air traffic growth - and to a reduction in the carbon footprint of the industry by 2 per cent per annum.

In order to achieve the global objectives of international aviation, a basket of measures has been planned in which actions have been identified for implementation, namely the development of innovative technologies by aeronautical manufacturers to reduce aircraft consumption, invest in the development of alternative sustainable fuels, improve air traffic management and the use of economic measures, with the creation of a global emissions market, called CORSIA.[15]

All these measures, in addition to contributing to carbon-neutral growth, promote social and economic development associated with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)[16].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Aviation Fuel Standard Takes Flight". ASTM. September–October 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  2. ^ "Sustainability schemes for biofuels". European Commission/Energy/Renewable energy/Biofuels. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Sustainable Aviation Fuel". Qantas. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  4. ^ "RSB Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials | Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials" (PDF). 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  5. ^ Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group – SAFUG". Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  7. ^ "Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group : European Section" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  8. ^ "Revision of the EU Energy Tax Directive - technical press briefing" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  9. ^ "Environment and Biofuels | Boeing Commercial Airplanes". Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  10. ^ "SAFUG Pledge; Boeing Commercial Airplanes". Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  11. ^ "Renewable Jet Fuels". Carbon War Room. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  12. ^ "Welcome". Renewable Jet Fuels. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  13. ^ "Sustainable Sky Institute". Sustainable Sky Institute. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  14. ^ "Sustainable Aviation Fuels Guide | ICAO" (PDF).
  15. ^ "CORSIA Website".
  16. ^ "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)".

External links[edit]

Regional SAF Roadmap initiatives:

Northwest Americas

Qantas: Introduction to Sustainable Aviation Fuel on YouTube