How SAF Can Become Cost Competitive Against Conventional Fuel
April 29, 2022
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  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) has been highlighted as an eligible option for carriers to meet their obligations under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Thus, with net-zero ambitions on the agenda among numerous governments worldwide, a push toward a SAF-friendly industry is required. 

    Government policy 

    Despite SAF being touted as an integral solution to cut down on carbon emissions, it is generally far more expensive than standard jet fuel. Subsequently, airlines have shared their concerns regarding the price of SAF, especially since they are expected to meet carbon reduction targets. 

    IATA previously noted that with the right policy support, SAF could make up 2% of all aviation fuel by the middle of this decade. Thus, 2025 is set to become a tipping point in SAF’s competitiveness with fossil fuels. Once this benchmark has been reached, SAF will be on its way to becoming the main source of aviation fuel. After all, the cost is a prime reason why several airlines have been slow in adopting SAF. 

    In 2020, the overall cost of jet fuel was $0.5 per liter. Meanwhile, the cost of SAF was $1.1 per liter. So, SAF was more than double the price of conventional jet fuel. 

    Nonetheless, we’ve already seen the cost of jet fuel spike amid political and social crises this year. According to, the price of A1 fuel as of April 29th is around $1.11 per liter in the United States. 

    The upcoming trend 

    While the current price is the result of a global crisis and isn’t a reflection of a natural trajectory, the general price of conventional jet fuel is expected to rise each year while the rate of SAF (HEFA) is anticipated to drop. At the Sustainable Skies Summit in Farnborough, England, earlier this month, which Simple Flying attended, engine powerhouse CFM International highlighted that the annual escalation factor for conventional jet fuel is 1%. Meanwhile, the annual escalation factor for CO2 compliance cost is 3.5%, piling on the fees for operators in this department. 

    In comparison, the average efficiency factor for SAF is 2.25%. Altogether, with effective policies, SAF price could be equal to jet fuel and CO2 emission costs by approximately 2037. 

    The price of SAF is expected to drop considerably later this decade, while the price of conventional jet fuel is predicted to rise sharply in the coming years. Photo: Neste 

    We’ve already seen a significant deployment increase from airlines in the last three years. In 2019, carriers committed to 40 million liters of SAF. There was then a 55% jump in 2020 to 80 million liters, leaping again to 120 million liters in 2021. 

    In practice 

    Just last fall, CFM worked with Airbus to deploy an A319neo with 100% SAF. Additionally, Airbus expanded its experiments to the A380 last month. All of Airbus’ aircraft are currently 50% SAF blend compatible. However, the manufacturer is looking to raise this percentage to 100% by 2030. 

    CFM International president and CEO Gaël Méheust shared the following at the Sustainable Skies Summit: 

    “Don’t let anyone tell you that we can’t fly with 100% SAF. We’ve demonstrated it, and we will continue to work to gather information and tell authorities that we need to raise the 50% all the way to 100%.” 

    While SAF will be a driving force in the sustainability journey, it’s not the silver bullet. Notably, hydrogen-electric technology will play a significant role in the green transformation. Méheust calls hydrogen the true zero-carbon solution due to its potentially environmentally-friendly methods of utilization. 

    All in all, government policy will be the catalyst to help SAF become competitive with the support of cost-effective production methods. By the time the 2030s arrive, we can expect a new-look fuel industry.