As air travel demand continues to grow, the GHGs impact of the industry is increasing with it, leaving the aviation community facing a decarbonization challenge tougher than for any other sector. Indeed, when comparing the 2t CO2e/passenger of a Paris-New York flight with the 2t CO2e/capita/year objective set to reach the Paris Agreement target, how could this sector concretely cut down its impact?
Under the scope of the International Air Transport Association –IATA-‘s commitment to reduce net aviation CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050 (vs. 2005), different solutions are emerging, amongst which, the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel has been clearly identified has one key lever for the industry decarbonization. With an ~80% fewer carbon emissions over its lifecycle than the traditional jet fuel it replaces, SAF is at the core of the aviation decarbonization plan. Why?
What is SAF and what different types of SAF?
Sustainable aviation fuels, or SAFs, are an alternative to fossil jet fuel, produced from sustainable feedstock like used cooking oils, waste or are fully synthetized. SAFs are key for the aviation industry because their usage results in an important reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the traditional jet fuel.
Today, SAFs can be blended at up to 50% with traditional jet fuel, for commercial flight use. More regulations are framing the production and usage of SAF, especially minimum blending to increase the use of these durable fuels.
3 types of SAF
Sustainable aviation fuels can be produced from different sources:
- Biofuels which are coming mainly from used cooking oils and animal fats with emissions saving between 76% and 85% depending on if the feedstock used is cooking oil or tallow, versus conventional jet fuels,
- Advanced biofuels from forestry and agricultural residues, algae and bio waste, with expected emissions savings between 91% and 94%,
- and Synthetic fuels. These e-fuels or also called Power to liquid, is the conversion of renewable electricity into liquid hydrocarbons. For this technology, emissions savings have a very high potential up to 100% with CO2 directly captured.
If SAFs seem to be powerful solution in the aviation sector neutrality journey, it is still not widely used because of different constraints.
Today, SAFs production and usage are limited by various challenges:
- The resources’ availability for SAF production is limited and getting access to the raw material can be challenging when it also needed for other sectors such as road and maritime transportation. Synthetic fuels could be an alternative to this issue, but it is currently facing technology limitation in terms of maturity.
- Price: Compared with fossil jet fuel, biofuels can be twice the cost, and up to 6 times for synthetic fuels. These significant investments can slow down the production as well as the usage potential of SAF for airlines.
- To ensure SAF production and usage are not shifting the sustainability problem to something else, it is important to check the origin of resources used in the production process of SAF, to make sure that the used crops are not from a field that could be destined to agriculture for example. This is why some durability criteria have been put in place to certify the origin of SAF: in Europe, REDII is detailing the criteria, and at a more global scale ICAO CORSIA has also detailed guidelines for SAF production to be certified. However, it can be challenging to keep up with regulations changes and implementations, making it harder to promote the adoption of SAFs.
- Logistical challenges.
SAF & Book and claim system
To face the different challenges, the industry is currently looking into of book and claim solutions. Often used in complex value chain, book and claim allows you to dissociate the physical flow of SAF from its attributes, that can be purchased and claim by different users.
By providing a market for SAF credits, book and claim solutions can incentivize the production and use of SAF, as producers can earn revenue from the sale of credits, and airlines can offset their carbon emissions. This can drive investment in the production of SAF and help bring down its cost, making it more accessible to airlines and other users.
How can TEO support aviation transition towards a more climate-resilient ecosystem?
TEO-The Energy Origin book and claim solution can support the aviation industry players by tracing the origin and attributes of SAF production alongside the value chain, creating an opportunity for producers, operators, airlines to valorize their efforts and support the industry in the decarbonization process, while developing a greater understanding of SAF demand. Moreover, as TEO is a Blockchain-based solution, it provides more trust between the different value chain actors, avoids potential double counting and simplifies processes with no need for any third party to collect, compile and share the data.