A closer look at sustainable aviation fuel (SAF): state of the art and challenges

In this exploration of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), we delve into its eco-friendly potential, production processes, and impact on aviation's environmental footprint. A pivotal step towards greener skies.
saf wht is it challenges

The airline industry is a big player in getting people around the world, but it’s also part of the problem when it comes to polluting and messing with the climate. Lately, scientists and engineers have been really into coming up with better ways to fuel airplanes without wrecking the planet. That’s where Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) comes into play – it’s like the cool new kid on the block that might just help make air travel not so bad for Mother Earth. 

So, let’s dive into this whole SAF thing: what it’s made of, where we can use it, the sticky situations it faces, and what best stuff it might bring in the future.

What is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)?

Sustainable Aviation Fuel is an initiative towards sustainable development in which traditional jet fuel is replaced with SAF. The SAF is biofuel work similarly to the conventional jet-fuel,  but leaves less carbon footprint. SAF is made from agricultural waste and renewable resources, which enables it to reduce almost 70% of emissions. 

Traditional fuels are fossil-based, and this nonrenewable option can increase the carbon footprints of the aviation industry significantly. But, adopting SAF is an approach toward a great future, as claimed by The International Air Transport Association (IATA). According to IATA, Sustainable Aviation Fuel can help us to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

It is no more only advice for the world, countries like the US have already initiated the use of SAF. 

In 2022 the United States increased production and reached 15.8 million gallons of SAF. Along with that, ICAO is planning to spike the development of SAF by checking global standards and CORSIA  eligibility criteria.

Read more: The green fuel to decarbonize the shipping industry

How do we make sustainable aviation fuels?

Sustainable aviation fuel is a game-changing discovery in the aviation world that could slash carbon emissions by a staggering 80%. Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty and explore what goes into crafting this remarkable fuel:

  • Recycling used oil and fats: Picture this – that oil you used for frying up those delicious meals? It could find a new purpose as a key ingredient in sustainable aviation fuel. Yep, we’re talking about using waste oils and fats, even the stuff from your kitchen, to whip up this eco-friendly marvel;

  • Green and municipal waste: Ever wondered what happens to your kitchen scraps or the organic waste collected by your municipalities? Well, some of that can actually be transformed into the building blocks of sustainable aviation fuel. Certain types of waste, such as organic materials, are a core ingredient of SAF;

  • Non-food crops: You know those crops that aren’t meant to end up on your dinner plate? Think of algae and specific plant varieties that aren’t part of your everyday salad. Turns out, these in producing aviation fuel that’s kinder to our planet;

  • Cooking up synthesis gas: Let’s talk about a gas mix that sounds- synthesis gas. It’s a blend of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and believe it or not, it can be harnessed as another source to cook up sustainable aviation fuel.

So there you have it, a sneak peek into the unconventional ingredients that come together to create the future of aviation fuels. 

How do sustainable aviation fuels work?

So, how exactly do these Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) do their thing? Well, imagine you’ve got a regular old airplane. Now, instead of pouring in the usual jet fuel, you pour in some of this sustainable fuel – SAF. They can be used in existing aircraft without requiring any modifications to engines or infrastructure.

When this SAF gets burned up in the engines, it lets out way fewer of those yucky emissions that mess with our environment. You’ve got your carbon dioxide levels dropping, sulfur oxides taking a nosedive, and those other nasty pollutants. They’re on a serious downward trend too.

And it’s not just about the big stuff. When this sustainable fuel does its thing, it’s like a clean-up crew for the sky. Less of those pesky particles floating around means the air we breathe is fresher and cleaner. They’re like a breath of fresh air for the aviation world, making flying a little easier on the planet and giving us clearer skies to enjoy.

Sustainable aviation fuel: challenges and what lies ahead

So, we know Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is pretty exciting stuff. It’s like the eco-friendly version of jet fuel. But, you know, it’s got a few bumps in the road before it becomes the go-to fuel for planes everywhere.

The not-so-big production of SAF

Okay, so here’s the deal: we don’t have a ton of SAF yet. It’s like comparing a tiny water bottle to a giant pool in terms of production. Because of this, SAF is quite hard to come by, and it’s a bit pricier compared to regular jet fuel. This makes it a bit of a struggle for airlines to get enough SAF to switch out their regular fuel and go all green.

Everyone’s joining hands to get more SAF

Don’t lose hope! People are working together to get SAF out there. Governments, airlines, and other folks who care about flying and the planet are teaming up to make more SAF. They’re coming up with solid rules and rewards to encourage the production and use of SAF. 

Also, they’re investing in advanced science stuff to make producing SAF cheaper and easier. And airlines and fuel makers are totally alliance now, teaming up to build more places where you can get SAF and make sure it gets to all the right planes.

Read more: The green fuel to decarbonize the shipping industry

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