Deployment of Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the United States
September 25, 2020
The U.S. aviation industry has taken a leadership role in the development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). We remain committed to advancing the commercialization and deployment of SAF to help the industry meet its emissions reduction goals, diversify fuel supply and enhance energy security. There are three core criteria that all types of SAF must meet for successful deployment by airlines. The fuel must be:
- Equally safe and effective as petroleum-based jet fuel
- Environmentally superior to petroleum-based jet fuel
- Commercially viable
While having the means to demonstrate that SAF is safe, effective and environmentally beneficial is critical, achieving commercial viability requires many more pieces to come together. Each of the following elements of the supply chain must be cost-effective and reliable: (1) commercial-scale quantities of sustainable feedstocks; (2) feedstock transportation and processing facilities; (3) facilities to convert feedstock into SAF; (4) facilities to blend “neat” SAF with petroleum-based jet fuel; (5) confirmation that fuel quality and environmental standards have been met; (6) transportation of the SAF purchased by the aircraft operator to an airport; and (7) receipt and deployment of blended SAF at airports.
While building or repurposing refineries to produce SAF – at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars or more – is likely the most capital-intensive aspect of the supply chain, each aspect requires significant investment and logistics. Relatively little commercial supply of SAF has been produced and deployed to date, and SAF generally has been understood to be significantly more costly than petroleum-based aviation fuel. We have made progress but still need supportive government policies, ongoing commitment from an array of stakeholders and expanded public-private partnerships to push the industry over the cusp. There are five primary ways in which airports and other stakeholders can work with airlines to support SAF deployment:
- Promote collective understandings and collaboration
- Advocate maintaining and expanding positive incentives for SAF
- Collaborate with airlines on regional strategies and/or airport-specific opportunities
- Support airlines and their fuel producers during initial SAF deployment at an airport
- Celebrate volunteerism
Given the criticality of jet fuel to reliable flight operations and its prominence as a cost item, airlines must be the decision makers in fuel supply chain management. But airlines welcome support for efforts to make SAF fully commercially viable and deploy it where it makes sense as we scale up. We encourage airports and other stakeholders to work with us in cooperative ways to develop, evaluate and support policies that will, quite literally, get SAF off the ground.
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