Suppliers of aviation fuels are urging governments across the world to impose blending mandates for sustainable aviation fuels in order to boost investment in SAF-producing facilities.
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"There is demand from business travelers, there are corporate ESG targets, there will be requests from customers [to use SAF], but we need government mandates as this transition is expensive," Shell Aviation's Bryan Stonehouse told industry participants at the International Air Transport Association fuel forum in Geneva on Nov. 11.
The ramp-up in the use of SAF in aircraft will be progressive as the aviation industry needs some time to recover from the pandemic and the best way to ensure the proper investment is made in plants to produce SAF is through national or international mandates and incentives, he said. "We need demand certainty in order to make the expensive investment," he said.
Currently, only two countries in the world have SAF blending mandates: both Sweden and Norway have put in place a 1% SAF blending mandate for any aircraft refueling in their territories. Next year, France will impose a similar 1% blending mandate.
In the US there are many types of incentives to blend SAF with fossil jet fuel, especially in California.
Looking further ahead, the European Commission is proposing in its Refuel EU aviation plan a 2% SAF mandate by 2025, 5% by 2030 and 63% by 2050, while the UK government announced a few months ago a target of 10% by 2030 and 75% by 2050.
SAF currently accounts for only 0.05% of total aviation fuel demand in Europe.
"The Refuel EU initiative is a step in the right direction but the European Commission has a very narrow-minded view in term of feedstock," Neste's head of sustainable aviation fuel Thorsten Lange said at the IATA forum on Nov. 11. "[The decarbonization of the aviation industry] will not start if we don't have the proper regulations in place -- we need to have demand certainty to incentivize investment in SAF production...regulators need to help by giving a nudge to the aviation industry to decarbonize," he said.
Earlier on Nov. 11, Sebastian Mikosz, IATA's Senior Vice President Environment and Sustainability, was due to reaffirm the resolution that IATA took at its annual general meeting in October, when the aviation industry body pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
According to IATA's Yue Huang, the net zero target is achievable through various measures, chiefly the increased use of SAF as it can reduce lifecycle emissions by 80% compared with fossil fuels. "SAF will contribute around 65% of the emissions reductions needed in 2050," she said, adding that 19% of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will come from offsetting technologies, 13% from new technologies and the rest from infrastructure/operations.
However, to ramp up SAF supply to the desirable levels, the production of sustainable aviation fuels "needs to go from 100 million liters today to at least 449 billion liters in 2050."