IATA projects SAF production to triple this year
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IATA projects SAF production to triple this year, sets up registry to support adoption

IATA projects SAF production to triple this year, sets up registry to support adoption

Governments have set clear expectations for aviation to achieve a 5 per cent CO2 emissions reduction through SAF by 2030 and to be net zero carbon emissions by 2050, IATA said

Neesha Salian
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production to triple this year, projects IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that its projections for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production are on track to triple in 2024, reaching 1.9 billion litres (1.5 million tonnes). This would constitute 0.53 per cent of aviation’s fuel needs for the year.

IATA also underscored the necessity of government policy measures to speed up SAF adoption.

“SAF will provide about 65 per cent of the mitigation needed for airlines to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. So the expected tripling of SAF production in 2024 from 2023 is encouraging. We still have a long way to go, but the direction of exponential increases is starting to come into focus,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

IATA shared its projections at the ongoing  80th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit in Dubai from June 2-4.

The event is being held in the UAE for the first time and is hosted by Emirates, with more than 1,500 participants in attendance, including industry leaders, government officials and media.

Read: IATA 80th AGM: Global aviation heads meet in Dubai to address geopolitical, climate challenges

Renewable fuel production

Renewable fuel production, including SAF, is shared across various industries.

Increasing overall renewable fuel production is crucial for maximising SAF’s potential. Some 140 renewable fuel projects capable of producing SAF are slated for production by 2030. If all proceed as planned, total renewable fuel production capacity could reach 51 million tonnes by 2030, distributed globally.

Investor interest in SAF continues to grow, potentially exceeding current projections.

With a typical three-to-five-year timeline from planning to production, investments made as late as 2027 could be operational by 2030. However, not all announced projects may reach final investment decisions.

Governments, through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), have set an ambition to achieve a 5 per cent CO2 emissions reduction for international aviation from SAF by 2030. To meet this target, around 27 per cent of the expected renewable fuel production capacity in 2030 would need to be SAF.

Currently, SAF accounts for just 3 per cent of all renewable fuel production.

Walsh added: “The interest in SAF is growing and there is plenty of potential. But the concrete plans that we have seen so far are far from sufficient.

“Governments have set clear expectations for aviation to achieve a 5 per cent CO2 emissions reduction through SAF by 2030 and to be net zero carbon emissions by 2050. They now need to implement policies to ensure that airlines can actually purchase SAF in the required quantities.”

These policy measures can help boost SAF production, recommends IATA

Several potential solutions could accelerate aviation’s access to necessary SAF quantities:

About 80 per cent of SAF expected to be produced over the next five years is likely to come from hydrogenated fatty acids (HEFA), such as used cooking oils and animal fats. Expanding the use of other certified pathways and feedstocks, including agricultural and forestry residues and municipal waste, will significantly increase SAF production potential.

Existing refineries can co-process up to 5 per cent of approved renewable feedstocks alongside crude oil streams. This can be implemented quickly to expand SAF production. Policies are needed to ensure consistent life-cycle assessments.

Current facilities are designed to maximize diesel production, often benefiting from road transportation incentives. As road transport shifts to electrification, policies should encourage the production of SAF. Incentives can facilitate the switch from renewable diesel to SAF, requiring minimal modifications at existing facilities.

Scaling up all renewable fuels, particularly SAF, will necessitate strong policy support. The US Grand Challenge, with $3bn in investments, is an example of such support. Stable, long-term tax credits could further maximise SAF production in both existing and new facilities.

“Incentives to build more renewable energy facilities, strengthen the feedstock supply chain, and allocate a greater portion of renewable fuel output to aviation would help decarbonize aviation. Governments can also facilitate technical solutions with accelerated approvals for diverse feedstocks and production methodologies, as well as co-processing renewable feedstocks in crude oil plants.

“No one policy or strategy will get us to the needed levels. But by using a combination of all potential policy measures, producing sufficient quantities of SAF is absolutely possible,” emphasised Walsh.

Growing demand for SAF shows IATA survey

A recent IATA survey revealed significant public support for SAF, with 86 per cent of travellers agreeing that governments should provide incentives for airlines to use SAF.

Additionally, 86 per cent believe leading oil corporations should prioritise SAF production.

IATA sets up SAF Registry to accelerate SAF adoption

In other news, IATA has set up a SAF Registry to accelerate the uptake of SAF by authoritatively accounting and reporting emissions reductions from the fuel.

The Registry is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2025.

Seventeen airlines, one airline group, six national authorities, three original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and one fuel producer are already supporting the effort to develop the registry.

“The SAF Registry will help meet the critical needs of all stakeholders as part of the global effort to ramp up SAF production. Governments need a trusted system to track the quality and quantities of SAF used. SAF producers need to accurately account for what has been delivered and effectively decarbonized. Corporate customers must be able to transparently account for their Scope 3 emissions. And airlines must have certainty that they can claim the environmental benefits of the SAF they purchased. The registry will meet all these needs,” added Walsh.

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