New technologies aim to boost SAF production

  • Market: Biofuels, Hydrogen, Oil products
  • 26/04/24

A likely rise in global demand for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), underpinned by mandates for its use, is encouraging development of new production pathways.

While hydrotreated esters and fatty acids synthesised paraffinic kerosine (HEFA-SPK) remains the most common type of SAF available today, much more production will be needed. The International Air Transport Association (Iata) estimated SAF output at around 500,000t in 2023, and expects this to rise to 1.5mn t this year, but that only meets around 0.5pc of global jet fuel demand.

An EU-wide SAF mandate will come into effect in 2025 that will set a minimum target of 2pc, with a sub-target for synthetic SAF starting from 2030. This week the UK published its domestic SAF mandate, also targeting a 2pc SAF share in 2025 and introducing a power-to-liquid (PtL) obligation from 2028.

New pathways involve different technology to unlock use of a wider feedstock base.

US engineering company Honeywell said this week its hydrocracking technology, Fischer-Tropsch (FT) Unicracking, can be used to produce SAF from biomass such as crop residue or wood and food waste. Renewable fuels producer DG Fuels will use the technology for its SAF facility in Louisiana, US. The plant will be able to produce 13,000 b/d of SAF starting from 2028, Honeywell said.

The company said its SAF technologies — which include ethanol-to-jet, which converts cellulosic ethanol into SAF — have been adopted at more than 50 sites worldwide including Brazil and China. Honeywell is part of the Google and Boeing-backed United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund, which is aimed at scaling up SAF production.

German alternative fuels company Ineratec said this week it will use South African integrated energy firm Sasol's FT catalysts for SAF production. The catalysts will be used in Ineratec's plants, including a PtL facility it is building in Frankfurt, Germany. The plant will be able to produce e-fuels from green hydrogen and CO2, with a capacity of 2,500 t/yr of e-fuels beginning in 2024. The e-fuels will then be processed into synthetic SAF.

Earlier this month, ethanol-to-jet producer LanzaJet said it has received funding from technology giant Microsoft's Climate Innovation Fund, "to continue building its capability and capacity to deploy its sustainable fuels process technology globally".

The producer recently signed a licence and engineering agreement with sustainable fuels company Jet Zero Australia to progress development of an SAF plant in north Queensland, Australia. The plant will have capacity of 102mn l/yr of SAF.

Polish oil firm Orlen formed a partnership with Japanese electrical engineering company Yakogawa to develop SAF technology. They aim to develop a technological process to synthesise CO2 and hydrogen to form PtL SAF. The SAF will be produced from renewable hydrogen as defined by the recast EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) and bio-CO2 from biomass boilers, Orlen told Argus.


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