SAF is Key for Reducing Carbon Emissions

 - September 22, 2021, 10:30 PM

Although the point has been repeated over and over, there are many pilots and aircraft operators that need to understand a basic fact about sustainable aviation fuel (SAF): it is a jet fuel, explained Keith Sawyer, Avfuel manager of alternative fuels. “SAF is approved by OEMs and ASTM and is recommended by the FAA, EASA, and other international aviation safety agencies.” So far, more than 400,000 flights have occurred using SAF, which is really quite remarkable," he said.

Sawyer, speaking yesterday via remote video at AIN’s Building a Sustainable Flight Department Conference in Tarrytown, New York, said that “SAF for business and general aviation is becoming increasingly important for us.”

More airports and FBOs are offering SAF, and one of the most consistent supplies has been at California’s Monterey Jet Center, which kicked of its SAF initiative with Avfuel in April. “We have a strategic partnership with [SAF manufacturer] Neste," he said, "which allows us to bring in a consistent supply. Monterey Jet Center is our most active location. It’s extraordinary how well it’s been received.”

SAF is important, Sawyer explained, because it is one of the main methods that the aviation industry will use to reach the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. “We’ve made big progress in engine and aircraft technology and flying aircraft efficiently, and one of the key components that remains is the introduction of SAF into the supply chain; that puts business and general aviation over the top.”

SAF is fully compatible with jet-A/A1 without any modifications to aircraft or engines. Because SAF is made from feedstocks such as used cooking oil or plant-based materials that would otherwise be burned or thrown away, its potential greenhouse gas reduction is up to 80 percent in its “neat,” or pure, foirm. Even though aviation as a whole accounts for 2 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and business aviation just 0.04 percent, sustainability efforts are important for companies looking to meet sustainability targets and also when including their corporate flight departments in these efforts.

The cost of SAF is an ongoing issue as it is more expensive to produce for now, but the price difference is expected to drop as volumes grow. “We believe that will narrow as we get increasing supply generated by more demand signals,” he said. The largest volumes will be in the western U.S., thanks to government incentives that make the market more attractive.

As more operators find that they are burning SAF in their aircraft’s engines, fuel buyers need to make sure they obtain the correctly filled out product transfer documents to account for the emissions-reduction benefits. “You should expect to receive this if you are a consumer of SAF,” Sawyer explained.

Proper documentation is also important when using the book and claim process, he added, where one operator buys fuel and pays the higher price for SAF in an area where SAF isn’t available. Another operator burns the SAF but doesn’t pay the premium. In this case, the original purchaser gets the credit for buying SAF even though it is consumed elsewhere. This avoids the expensive and energy-wasting need to physically move the fuel from near where it is produced to where that customer wanted to buy it to receive the credit.

Sawyer noted that there is additional information about SAF on Avfuel website’s sustainability page.