Sustainable Aviation Fuels and Their Future


As the aerospace industry continues their commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, many operators are seeking new alternatives to replace conventional aviation fuels. While electrically powered aircraft still have some ways to go before they are widely available across global markets and applications, there are currently greener alternatives that can drastically reduce emissions resulting from flight operations. Known as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), such fuel alternatives can reduce carbon emissions upwards of 80% as compared to fossil-based fuels.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel is produced through renewable feedstocks, those including both agricultural residues and waste oils. While SAF is often compared to biofuels, the two alternatives differ in their makeup and characteristics. With biofuels, production of the alternative relies on plant and animal materials as well as some non-biological resources. As such, biofuels can sometimes be unsustainable, and they even may be harmful to the environment. Due to such differences, the aviation industry prefers to rely on SAF for alternative fuel options.

To ensure that the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from burning Sustainable Aviation Fuels is low, the biomass and feedstocks chosen for developing the alternative fuel are always of low carbon content. To also guarantee that more aircraft can take advantage of such greener alternatives, SAF is usually produced in a way that it can be used by existing aircraft engine fuel system components as well as is designed to provide similar performance to conventional fossil fuels.

In order to promote safely produced SAF alternative fuel pump for use on aircraft, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International have developed a set of standards and approval methods for development. As of the present, there exists six methods for producing SAF that are approved, and such methods are known as production pathways. With each production pathway type, the process name and method is listed alongside feedstock and waste options, and a blending limit is provided to ensure correct manufacturing of SAF.

While SAF is in its early adoption stages, there are now 14 airports situated across the globe in which such sustainable fuel control is provided. Despite this seemingly small number, over 215,000 commercial flights utilize SAF, and 6 billion liters have been purchased in forward agreements as of 2019. Moving into the future, the International Airlines Group (IAG) is initializing a project with Velocys in order to produce alternative fuels from household waste for British Airlines (BA) come 2022. With other airline operators and airports slowly but surely following suit, the push for greener alternatives is becoming stronger.

With the European Union currently operating with a maximum potential production output of 2.3 million tonnes per year, they alone could serve about 4% of the entire demand for aviation fossil fuels. In areas such as the United Kingdom, a push for increased SAF capacity is underway with Sustainable Aviation (SA) asking for an office for SAF, investments in commercial plants, recycling for carbon fuels, and encouragement for SAF production and investment.

As SAF initiatives continue to be adopted and pushed forward, there are various hurdles that will need to be surpassed. One such hurdle is pricing, as fluctuating kerosene costs can affect the supply of SAF across the market. To successfully combat fossil fuels, SAF will need to either match the pricing of fossil fuels or go lower, and this can be achieved through various incentives. As SAF requires feedstock, supply chains, and logistics that are not yet fully developed, the cost of SAF production is still high as well. Finally, the supply and demand of SAF needs to be increased, as the current limited supply results in a lack of demand. To remedy such a situation, global policies and incentives can be pushed forward in order to promote demand.

With the adoption of more sustainable fuel alternatives, aircraft can continue to use their current engine aviation parts and fuel pump assemblies while reducing their emissions upwards of 80%. As a top supplier of aircraft parts, Aerospace Orbit can help you secure everything you are searching for such as fuel pump assembly components, fuel injection service kits, and components relating to steam turbines, diesel engines, and more.



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July 14, 2021

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