If you need to get from SA (on one side of the world) to the US (on the other side of the world), there is only one effective way to get there: plane.

There is no other efficient way for any of us to travel around the world outside of a plane.

Cars are too time consuming and don’t go everywhere. Trains are also limited by the rail networks they exist on.

Boats are too slow, and equally (and often more) polluting than planes.

To fly is arguably the best and most efficient way for us to get around the world.

That’s not going to change in a hurry.

However, with global decarbonisation efforts, airlines will need to ensure their planes are more environmentally friendly – and at the same time – economically viable. Enter SAF biofuel.

So what is SAF biofuel and how did it come about?

SAF biofuel has been an area of focus for airlines for several years now.

After all, aviation accounts for an estimated 2-3% of global carbon emissions.

Most new aircraft from Boeing or Airbus employ new technologies such as composite materials and more fuel-efficient engine systems.

But this is not enough.

Back in September 2020, Airlines for America released a “primer” report titled, “Deployment of Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the United States”.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF for short is a biofuel used to power aircrafts that has similar properties to conventional jet fuel, but with a smaller carbon footprint.

It can be produced from various sources (feedstock) including waste oil and fats, green and municipal waste and non-food crops.

It can also be produced synthetically via a process that captures carbon directly from the air.

According to estimates from the International Airline Association, SAFs could reduce airline emissions by up to 70%.

A huge milestone achieved by SAFs last week

A Virgin Atlantic passenger jet powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) completed a London-to-New York flight.

The fuel used to power the flight was mostly made from used cooking oil and waste animal fat mixed with a small amount of synthetic aromatic kerosene made from waste corn.

It’s the first time a commercial airliner has flown long haul on 100% SAF. On board to experience this feat was Virgin’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, and a few others.

While this was a big step for SAFs and the aviation industry, there’s still a big problem with SAFs…

It’s costly!

The high cost and tight supply of materials needed to produce large-scale quantities of SAFs is difficult.

SAF accounts for less than 0.1% of total global jet fuel in use today and costs three to five times as much as regular jet fuel.

As Branson said,
“It’s going to take a while before we can get enough fuel where everybody’s going to be able to fly. But you’ve got to start somewhere.”

In short…

There’s no doubt that this is an important area of development in global aviation moving forward. And it presents a unique opportunity for those who develop new, more sustainable fuels for transport and in particular the aviation industry. Follow our updates on renewable energy tips and opportunities here.

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