Global SAF Production Set to Triple by 2024, But Diversification Needed for Long-Term Growth
IATA Projects Significant Increase in Sustainable Aviation Fuel Output; Calls for Comprehensive Policy Support to Meet Future Demand
June 2, 2024
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Summary: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a projected tripling of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production in 2024, marking a significant step towards reducing aviation's carbon footprint. However, to sustain this growth and meet long-term targets, the IATA emphasizes the need for diversified feedstocks and robust policy measures.

Dubai – In a landmark announcement, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) confirmed that Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production is expected to triple by 2024, reaching 1.9 billion liters (1.5 million tonnes). This increase, however, will still only cover 0.53% of aviation’s fuel needs for that year. To significantly ramp up SAF usage, IATA stresses the necessity of supportive government policies.

“SAF will provide about 65% of the mitigation needed for airlines to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. So the expected tripling of SAF production in 2024 from 2023 is encouraging,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “We still have a long way to go, but the direction of exponential increases is starting to come into focus.”

The renewable fuel sector, integral to boosting SAF production, is set for expansion. Around 140 renewable fuel projects capable of producing SAF are slated to be operational by 2030. If fully realized, these projects could yield a production capacity of 51 million tonnes, spanning multiple regions. Investor interest continues to grow, suggesting that late-stage announcements might still contribute significantly to capacity by 2030.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has set an ambitious target: a 5% CO2 emissions reduction for international aviation via SAF by 2030. Achieving this requires SAF to constitute around 27% of total renewable fuel production by then, up from the current 3%.

“The interest in SAF is growing, and there is plenty of potential. But the concrete plans that we have seen so far are far from sufficient,” Walsh noted. “Governments need to implement policies to ensure that airlines can purchase SAF in the required quantities.”

Potential Policy Measures to Boost SAF Production:

Several strategies have been identified to accelerate SAF production:

  1. Diversify Feedstocks: Currently, about 80% of SAF comes from hydrogenated fatty acids (HEFA) such as used cooking oils and animal fats. Expanding the use of other certified pathways, including agricultural residues and municipal waste, could significantly boost SAF production.
  2. Co-processing in Refineries: Utilizing existing refineries to co-process renewable feedstocks with crude oil could quickly and substantially increase SAF production. Urgent policy facilitation is required to support consistent life-cycle assessments.
  3. Incentives for Renewable Fuel Facilities: Policies should shift production incentives towards SAF to cater to the long-term needs of air transport, particularly as road transportation transitions to electrification.
  4. Boosting Investments in Renewable Fuel Production: Strong policy support, such as the US Grand Challenge’s $3 billion investment, is essential to scale up all renewable fuels, with a growing focus on SAF.

“Incentives to build more renewable energy facilities, strengthen the feedstock supply chain, and allocate a greater portion of renewable fuel output to aviation would help decarbonize aviation,” Walsh stated. “Governments can also facilitate technical solutions with accelerated approvals for diverse feedstocks and production methodologies. No single policy will suffice, but a combination of measures will make producing sufficient quantities of SAF possible.”

Passenger Support:

A recent IATA survey highlighted significant public support for SAF, with 86% of travelers agreeing that governments should incentivize airlines to use SAF. Similarly, 86% believe leading oil corporations should prioritize SAF production.

Source: International Air Transport Association (IATA)
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