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SAF Use Gaining Traction, Advocates Say

Sept. 19, 2023

Advocates of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) say the environmentally friendly alternative to conventional Jet A is gaining traction in the business aviation industry, despite its cost and limited availability.

“SAF is finally starting to get some momentum,” says Darryl Young, director of trip support at AEG Fuels and a member of the NBAA Environmental Subcommittee.

In fact, pure SAF – known in the industry as “neat SAF” – has the potential to reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel. Business aviation sees it as a cornerstone of its unified plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“It’s the only tangible thing we have right now,” says Erik Dagley, who flies and handles sustainability issues for a California-based global technology company with a fleet of three intercontinental aircraft.

“The product is better for the world,” says Dagley. “People who have had no interest before now are interested.”

Virtually identical to Jet A in terms of engine performance, SAF is made from non-petroleum-based renewable feedstocks such as fats, greases and cooking oils.

A chief pilot at a large business aviation operator based in the West Coast says his company wants “to be contributors toward purchasing more SAF, which ultimately will create demand and drive down the premium per gallon over time.”

He says his department typically uploads a 30% SAF blend at its base airport to fuel shuttle flights and pays a premium of $1.50 to $2.00 per gallon to do so.

What you may not know is that airports have no way of separating out that true blend for individual uplifts, so operators who aren’t paying for SAF are getting it anyway.

“This creates confusion,” he says.

Aircraft OEMs provide their customers with SAF information resources and guidance so “there’s a constant flow of information,” says AEG’s Young.

AEG provides support to operators wanting SAF through its trip planning services.

Also, the sustainability solutions program 4AIR offers an updated interactive map showing airports that offer SAF. Another option for operators wanting to purchase SAF where it’s not available on site is called book-and-claim. Book-and-claim uses a system of credits to essentially allow operators to purchase SAF that’s located somewhere else. For more information, ask about the book and claim option at FBOs.

To give the industry a boost, lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe have passed legislation aimed at increasing SAF production. A U.S. blenders tax credit went into effect last January, making SAF producers eligible for a $1.25 per gallon credit for each gallon of SAF sold. A newly passed law in the European Union mandates that 2% of all fuel delivered to EU airports must be SAF beginning in 2025, rising incrementally to 70% by 2050.

Meanwhile, SAF availability is expected to remain challenging until production ramps up. “Demand is there,” says Young. “We just don’t have enough of it to go around.”

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