IATA: SAF to play key role in carbon mitigation in 2050
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Sustainable aviation fuels to play key role in carbon mitigation, says IATA

Sustainable aviation fuels to play key role in carbon mitigation, says IATA

In 2022, SAF production tripled to some 300 million litres with project announcements for potential SAF producers rapidly growing

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SAF to play a key role in aviation sector's net zero 2050 journey _GettyImages-1372488167

Overall renewable fuel production is expected to reach an estimated capacity of at least 69 billion litres (55 million tonnes) by 2028, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) estimates.

According to IATA, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will comprise a portion of this growing output which is being achieved through new renewable fuel refineries and the expansion of existing facilities. Importantly, the expected production has “a wide geographic footprint covering North America, Europe and Asia Pacific”.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, said: “The expected production increase is extremely encouraging. Seeing this, we need governments to act to ensure that SAF gets its fair production share. That means, in the first instance, production incentives, to support aviation’s energy transition. And we need continued approval for more diversification of methods and feedstocks available for SAF production.

“With these two measures successfully in place, we can be confident that the expected 2028 production levels will be realistically aligned with our recently published roadmaps to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That is important as we are counting on SAF to provide about 62 per cent of the carbon mitigation needed in 2050.”

Production of SAF tripled in 2022

Trends supporting this optimistic outlook are already visible. In 2022, SAF production tripled to some 300 million litres (240,000 tonnes) and project announcements for potential SAF producers are rapidly growing.

IATA counts over 130 relevant renewable fuel projects announced by more than 85 producers across 30 countries.

Each of these projects has either announced the intent or commitment to produce SAF within their wider product slate of renewable fuels. Typically, there is a three to five lag between a project announcement and its commercialization date. This implies that further renewable fuel capacity out until 2030 could still be announced over the following years.

If renewable energy production reaches 69 billion litres by 2028 as estimated, the trajectory to 100 billion litres (80 million tonnes) by 2030 would be on track. If just 30 per cent of that produced SAF, the industry could achieve 30 billion litres (24 million tonnes) of SAF production by 2030.

“Achieving the necessary SAF percentage output from these new and expanding facilities is not a given. But with governments the world-over agreeing at ICAO to a long-term aspirational goal of net zero by 2050, they now share accountability for aviation’s decarbonisation. That means establishing a policy framework to ensure that aviation gets the needed share of renewable energy production in SAF,” said Walsh.

A recent IATA survey revealed significant public support for SAF. Some 85 per cent of travellers agreed that governments should provide incentives for airlines to use SAF.

“People have experienced governments’ role in the transition to green energy for electricity. They now expect it for SAF. The G7 leaders are among the latest to reiterate their understanding that SAF is critical for sustainable aviation. Now they must support their declarations with effective policies. To promote SAF production, there are many tried and tested tools including tax credits, grants, or even direct investments in emerging technologies and solutions. The market is there. Airlines want to purchase SAF. Anything to meaningfully incentivise SAF production will be a step forward,” added Walsh.

In recent use, the global aviation industry’s profit is expected to reach $9.8bn in 2023, more than double the $4.7bn forecast in December, driven by pent-up demand for air travel as the industry recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The association said the return to net profitability, even with a 1.2 per cent net profit margin, is a major achievement for the industry.

The airline trade body projected that the industry’s operating profits will reach $22.4bn this year, more than the December forecast of $3.2bn. The operating profit is also more than double the $10.1bn operating profit estimated for 2022.

IATA expects some 4.35 billion passengers to travel in 2023, around 96 per cent of 2019 levels.

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