Sustainable aviation fuel seems to be on every airline CEO and fuel procurement executive’s lips lately. And no wonder. As the industry emerges from its gravest crisis to date, another one – that will make the fuel prices spike of 2022 look like peanuts – is looming large around the corner. As the effects of climate change become more and more acutely felt across the globe, airlines have dedicated themselves to sustainability efforts with a previously unseen zealousness.
Sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, is predicted to make up a large chunk of the airline industry’s quest for net-zero emissions by 2050. The industry is expected to reach over $15 billion by the end of the current decade. While the landscape may change significantly over the coming years, particularly with the advent of the so-called Power-to-Liquid or e-fuels, we thought we would take a look at the major players in SAF today, ahead of the Sustainable Aviation Futures Congress taking place in Amsterdam next month.
At the front of the pack is fuel producer Neste. The company’s product made from renewable waste sources is powering planes from North America to the Asia-Pacific, with agreements for vast amounts of SAF hitting the news on an increasingly regular basis. Simple Flying recently caught up with the company’s Vice President of Renewable Aviation, Jonathan Wood, who said that airline and airport interest has practically exploded over the past couple of years.
Neste is set to increase its SAF production from 34 million gallons per annum to 515 million gallons per annum next year at its refineries in Rotterdam and Singapore. Airlines already operating on Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Ryanair, Malaysia Airlines, and Etihad, among others. Furthermore, the company just signed a significant deal with United Airlines and has teamed up with Coldplay to help reduce the environmental impact of the band’s current Music of the Spheres World Tour.
Boston-based World Energy has been providing lower carbon solutions for some time. However, it wasn’t until recently business really took off when it became the leading supplier of SAF for United Airlines flights out of LAX. It is currently expanding its production facilities in Paramount, California, in a $2 billion project in collaboration with Air Products. This will include a new hydrogen plant and extension and capacity increase of Air Products’ existing Southern California hydrogen pipeline network. The upgraded facility is expected to come online in 2025 and will scale production to 340 million gallons per annum.
The company currently produces its SAF from a feedstock of agricultural waste fats and oils. In 2020, World Energy also embarked on a partnership with Shell and the Lufthansa Group to supply the latter with sustainable aviation fuel for its flights out of San Francisco International Airport (SFO). While the one million gallons uplifted by Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines at the time may seem like a pitifully small amount, these early landmark agreements have been pivotal to getting the ball rolling and scaling production.
Gene Gebolys, World Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, commented at the time,
“We are thrilled to be working with Shell to advance their ability to empower industry leaders, like Lufthansa, to take action toward reducing their sector’s carbon footprint. The shift to low-carbon fuels will not happen in a day and won’t be done alone, but today we are taking one more important step on a long journey together. We are committed to making low-carbon fuels readily available to those who choose to act now and to lead the transition to a cleaner energy future.”
Alder Fuels has also partaken of United’s zealous quest to reach net-zero CO2 by 2050 without relying on carbon offsetting. The airline, along with Honeywell, has invested a substantial amount in the company, and signed up for no less than 1.5 billion gallons of SAF – when it will actually be produced.
The SAF that Alder Fuels will make will use feedstocks like degenerative grasses and forest and agricultural residues. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), forestry residues and agricultural residues alone could provide enough biomass energy to generate more than 17 billion gallons of jet fuel and displace 75% of US aviation fuel consumption.
Just yesterday, global fuel and services provider Avfuel announced an investment in Alder Fuels, signing up for one billion gallons of SAF over a 20-year period. Avfuel says it will use the SAF to power both commercial and business aviation, and it is essentially the largest global business aviation sustainable fuel agreement in history. Bryan Sherbacow, Alder Fuels CEO, commented,
“Imagine we can eliminate the harmful carbon added to our atmosphere when refining oil to jet fuel. Alder’s technology delivers this dream by converting globally available biomass to green crude oil scalable to meet the aviation industry’s demand at a cost competitive with petroleum.”
SkyNRG has sourced and blended SAF for 40 airlines worldwide. However, one of the company’s most significant achievements is a partnership with Boeing that last year was expanded to the support of SkyNRG Americas’ SAF production project that is set to supply airlines and Boeing operations on the West Coast.
In the Netherlands, SkyNRG has also invested in startup Synkero, set to begin production of synthetic e-fuel from green hydrogen and renewable energy. Its facilities will be located in the Port of Amsterdam, which already has a an existing kerosene pipeline to Schiphol Airport, and produce 50,000 tons of sustainable aviation fuel annually.