Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
What is Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)?
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a renewable alternative to conventional jet fuel that could be used in today’s aircraft and immediately improve the environmental impacts of flight.
- SAF made from renewable biomass and waste resources can deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel with a fraction of its carbon footprint – without requiring any technological changes to the aircraft.
- SAF is key to helping reduce the environmental impact of aviation because it offers an immediate reduction to the industry’s carbon footprint. The use of sustainable aviation fuel provides significant reductions in overall CO2 lifecycle emissions compared to fossil jet fuels, up to 80%. For every million gallons of renewable jet fuel consumed, the greenhouse gas emission savings equate to:
- 22,500,000 less miles from average passenger vehicles
- 1,100,000 fewer gallons of gasoline consumed
- 10,000,000 fewer pounds of coal burned
- 3,000 tons of waste recycled
SAF Production and Feedstocks
- Nearly 20 million gallons of SAF was produced in 2022. U.S. airlines consume about 17.5 billion gallons of jet fuel per year.
- Feedstocks used to produce SAF include corn, oilseeds, fats, oils, and greases, and other agricultural byproducts.
- Corn ethanol is a readily available feedstock for SAF production. Ethanol-to-jet is a type of SAF that would serve as a new market for the mature corn ethanol industry in the future – as well as for the farmers who grow the feedstocks. An analysis from the U.S. Department of Energy found that “there is great potential to produce SAFs with potentially zero or negative GHG emissions through a combination of cleaner production technologies and sustainable farming practices.”
There are many benefits to SAF replacing traditional jet fuel – in addition to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
- Extra revenue for farmers: Selling feedstocks to SAF producers opens up new markets for American farmers.
- Environmental benefits to land and water: Climate-smart agriculture practices can help control erosion, improve water quality and quantity, increase biodiversity, and store carbon in soil.
- Cleaner air: Many SAFs contain fewer aromatic components, meaning lower emissions of harmful compounds during take-off and landing and fewer contrails, which exacerbate climate change.
- Infrastructure compatibility: SAF blended with conventional jet fuel is a drop-in fuel, meaning it can be used in existing aircraft and airport infrastructure.
- More flexibility: SAF is a replacement for conventional jet fuel, allowing for multiple products from various feedstocks and production technologies.
- Potential to expand U.S. manufacturing opportunities: Producing SAF creates jobs in construction for biorefineries, as well manufacturing jobs to operate SAF biorefineries and related infrastructure.
Efforts to Expand SAF Production and Use
The Biden Administration’s SAF Grand Challenge sets goals of producing 3 billion gallons of SAF annually by 2030 and 25 billion gallons per year by 2050.
"Mark my words: The next 20 years, farmers are going to be providing 95% of all the sustainable airline fuel"
- President Joe Biden
The U.S. Department of Energy is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to develop a comprehensive strategy for scaling up new technologies to produce SAF on a commercial scale. The SAF Grand Challenge will play a large role in helping the aviation industry achieve net zero by 2050.
The 40B tax credit is a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) tax credit. Congress provides five years of SAF tax incentives. In 2023 and 2024 SAF will qualify for a standalone blenders credit (40B) if the fuel reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent. The value of this credit is determined on a sliding scale, equal to $1.25 plus an additional $0.01 for each percentage point by which the lifecycle emissions reduction of such fuel exceeds 50 percent. Then, SAF incentives will become part of 45Z Clean Fuel Production Credit from 2025 to 2027. ACE is advocating for the Treasury Department to use the latest GREET model for determining emission rates for SAF.