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The Future of Aviation Fuels

The threat posed by greenhouse gases (GHG) as a major contributor to climate change has prompted the aviation industry to move toward a zero-emissions goal by 2050. In that regard, last November U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. The plan, which for the first time describes how the U.S will reach the 2050 objective, cites production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) from renewable and waste feedstocks as its key initiative. SAF, at least for now, seems to be the leading technology toward zero GHG emissions—even as research into electric, hydrogen, and hybrid propulsion continues. However, if SAF is to be the future of aviation fuels for the near-term, the question remains: can the industry reach the total phase-out of conventional Jet A by 2050 with SAF. “The development of future aviation fuels will focus on two things,” said Chris Cooper, Vice-President, North America, Renewable Aviation for Neste US, Inc. “The first one is getting to a point where aircraft run safely on 100% sustainable aviation fuel; and secondly, developing a new generation of even lower carbon intensity feedstock to make SAF that delivers even better climate benefits. In the future, SAF could be made from municipal solid waste, forestry waste, and algae.” Cooper stressed that although there is also an ongoing focus on other net-zero solutions such as hydrogen, SAF is available today, while other solutions might require decades to become viable. To illustrate, he pointed out that Neste, now the world’s leading producer of SAF, expects to achieve an annual production of 515 million gallons of the fuel by 2023. “That is 15-times more than we are producing today,” Cooper remarked. “Neste foresees strong growth in the sustainable aviation fuel market driven

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Welcome to the Aviation Business Journal, the official publication of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA).

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