Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) – The Need of the Hour

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September 22, 2022


RECOMMENDED / Synthetic Biology


Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) – The Need of the Hour

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

Air travel is essential to economies and global businesses enabling us to visit, meet and mingle with different people. One cannot ignore the environmental impact of the aviation industry. The emergence of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) as an alternative to conventional aviation fuel looks promising. Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) can significantly cut down the industry’s carbon footprints, improve air quality and reduce the dependency on the petroleum industry.

There are several startups in this space that have come up with innovative solutions and new technologies to minimize the environmental impact of the aviation industry by producing much cleaner and more sustainable fuels. Here are some of the companies that have risen to the challenge of sourcing and producing greener fuels that are used in transportation.

Producing Jet Fuel Using Alcohol & Natural Gas Liquids

Lanza Jet uses a two-pronged approach both as an established Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) technology provider and as a sustainable fuel producer. With a team of experienced professionals and researchers, Lanza Jet is all set to make sustainable fuel a reality. Lanza Jet is also known for a patented technology that converts alcohol to jet fuel (ATJ) which is known to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least fifty percent. Unlike using food wastes or feeds, the company uses ethanol as a building block to produce sustainable fuels.

The sustainable fuel is produced by converting ethanol to Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (SPK) and Synthetic Paraffinic Diesel (SPD) which can be used by blending it with conventional jet aviation fuel.

The ATJ technology can also be used to produce fuel from ethanol extracted from municipal solid waste, agriculture residues, industrial off-gases, and biomasses.

Some of the benefits of using Lanza Jet technology include flexible fuel sourcing, sustainability, high carbon efficiency, high selectivity to Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), flexible product mix, and low fuel cost.

Similarly, Rocky Mountain GTL converts natural gas liquids into synthetic fuel using EGTL technology. Rocky Mountain GTL achieves its goal of producing sustainable aviation fuel by recycling low-value by-products such as naphtha, propane, and butane into high-quality fuel products.

Rocky Mountain GTL’s Paraffinic Fuel: A Cleaner Alternative to Conventional Fuels

The process involves using Rocky Mountain GTL’s feedstock flexible EGTL technology along with GreyRock Energy’s “Direct to Fuel” catalyst on LPGs and NGLs for conversion.

Unlike other fuel producers, Rocky Mountain GTL eliminates complex refining by targeting liquid paraffin. Rocky Mountain GTL can produce paraffinic fuel in a much more efficient manner by eradicating the need for an oxygen plant and hydro-cracker. These paraffinic fuels can fully blend with existing and future diesel engines to offer cleaner transport fuel compared to conventional fuels.

The benefits of using paraffinic fuels include reduced emissions of regulated pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, and unburnt hydrocarbons. It is known that it assists in better starting performance under cold weather and has a longer shelf life. The lower sulfur content in paraffinic fuel provides cleaner combustion and lesser engine noise. The presence of aromatic compounds in the fuel means less toxicity to the environment. It does not harm human health if fuel comes in direct contact with the people.

Utilizing Feedstocks to Produce Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

Alder Fuels is a cleantech company that converts forestry and other woody residues into Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) that can be used by commercial airlines. Alder Fuels strives to produce crude oil that is carbon negative which can go on to replace petroleum in the long run.

This low-carbon sustainable crude oil is scalable, cost-competitive, and compatible with the existing petroleum refining and logistics infrastructure. Alder Fuels uses pyrolysis technology to transform agricultural biomass into a liquid and then treats it in a certain way to make it compatible with existing refineries. The combination of the fuel life cycle along with eco-refining hydro-processing technology ensures the ability to produce a greener aviation fuel. So that it  matches the specification of modern-day jet engines.

Alder Fuels partners with Colombian government for sustainable aviation fuel, targeting 51% GHG emissions reduction.

 The main objective of this partnership is to produce SAF from biomass farming.

Producing Sustainable Aviation Fuel using Isobutanol

Gevo is an advanced biofuels chemical company that produces sustainable fuel for aviation using sugar and starch feedstock. Gevo uses Isobutanol as the main building block to produce a range of derivatives. It includes octane, jet fuel blendstock, and other drop-in hydrocarbons. These derivatives are more sustainable fuel sources for the aviation industry. This helps reduce carbon emissions and create a more sustainable fuel source for the aviation industry.

Gevo produces isobutanol through fermentable sugars found in corn feedstock using their Gevo Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT). Gevo designed GIFT technology to overcome the stress effect of isobutanol on the fermentation process. It does this by removing the product during fermentation, ensuring a smoother process and higher yield of isobutanol. The aviation sector can utilize Gevo’s ATJ-SPK as a substitute for fossil fuels, offering low-carbon jet fuels. Gevo has signed an MoU with ADM to back the production of SAFs and other low-carbon footprint hydrocarbon fuels.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) | What’s Next?

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) have provided a pathway to replace petroleum-based jet fuels.

The future of SAF relies on lab research of building blocks found in nature, unlike fossil fuels.

As technology evolves constantly, the possibilities for solving climate change are unlimited. Nearly 300,000 flights have utilized Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). They have already proven to be a game-changer in cutting down emissions by almost 80%. SAFs play a crucial role in keeping the environment cleaner and greener as more people travel and seek adventure.

United Airlines successfully operated the first-ever 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)-powered flight, more recently. This has encouraged many more flight operators to consider the use of SAF for daily operations. It helps the aviation industry to significantly reduce carbon footprints in the coming years.

SAFs’ cost-effectiveness is pushing aviation players to rethink petroleum use for jet engines as travel and adventure become more popular. With promising innovations on the horizon, the future of SAFs looks bright.

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