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London — Total will begin supplying sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, to French airports from the current month, the energy major said April 8, as it steps up efforts to produce cleaner fuels.

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SAF is a renewable alternative to traditional jet fuel that the global aviation industry has explored over the past decade, with five production technologies approved to convert sustainable feedstocks into fuel. It is mostly manufactured from bio-waste, namely agricultural waste fats and/or oils, or residue raw materials.

Total, which is Europe's biggest refiner, confirmed it had begun producing SAF at its La Mède biorefinery in southern France and its Oudalle facility near Le Havre. It also plans to produce SAF from its "zero-crude" Grandpuits platform from 2024.

This comes not long after the French government put in place a law calling all aircraft to use at least 1% biojet fuel by 2022, 2% by 2025 and 5% by 2030.

Total's sustainable aviation fuel will be made from animal fat, used cooking oil and other waste and residue sourced from the circular economy. It will not use vegetable oils as feedstock unlike other SAF producers, it added.

Net zero strategy

The development comes as the oil and airlines industries are taking serious steps to decarbonize the aviation sector.

"By producing sustainable aviation fuel at our French sites today, we are able to respond to strong demand from an aviation industry looking to reduce its carbon footprint, while adapting our industrial resources," said Bernard Pinatel, president of refining & chemicals at Total. "This commitment is fully aligned with Total's climate ambition to get to net zero emissions by 2050."

Total recently signaled a major boost in spending on renewable energy in the coming years as part of its strategy to shift to cleaner, lower-carbon fuels. The company's dedicated Renewable Fuels business will start operations from next month, the statement said.

But the French energy major pledged to maintain a previous target of growing its oil and gas production in the near term to fund its green investment drive.

This week, fellow rival Shell invested in bio-jet producer LanzaJet as the energy major looks to increase its presence in the production of renewable fuels.

Many of Europe's refiners are moving away from traditional oil refining and refocusing their business on producing renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel and feedstock for polymers and chemicals.

Finland's Neste has emerged as one of the key producers of SAF, with a current capacity of 100,000 mt/year. It is aiming to produce some 1.5 million mt/year of SAF by 2023.