Jet Zero: Measures – Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

The DfT’s consultation says:

3.13 We need to reduce the climate impact of fuels and improve efficiency

3.14 SAF can be blended in with fossil fuel and used in existing engines and deliver CO2 savings – 10% of UK flights are long haul and account for 60% of UK aviation emissions

3.15 SAF from feedstock can lead to 70% CO2 savings and with GHG removal technologies could result in zero emissions, plus less soot and particulates

What is SAF?

SAF is a low carbon alternative to conventional, fossil derived, aviation fuel – ‘drop in equivalents’ that presents similar characteristics to conventional jet fuel. Generally, SAF can be produced from three types of feedstock:

  • Biomass: this includes biogenic waste, e.g. used cooking oil
  • Non-biogenic waste: e.g. unrecyclable plastics or waste fossil gases from industry
  • CO2 + green hydrogen: zero-carbon electricity is used to produce hydrogen through water electrolysis; hydrogen then reacts with CO2 captured from the air or waste industrial exhaust streams to produce a synthetic fuel. This process is known as Power-to-liquid (PtL).

The benefits of sustainable aviation fuel:

  • A UK SAF industry could generate between £700m–£1.6bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) per year and create between 5,000–11,000 green jobs
  • Helping the UK to ‘level up’ and not rely on oil imports, with production facilities across the whole of the UK.

3.16 However, SAF is currently 2-3 times, in some cases 8 times, more expensive than fossil fuels – there is an industrial leadership opportunity in development and production

3.17 The government is providing incentives and competitions to encourage first-of-a-kind SAF plants in the UK

3.18 We are developing plans for a SAF clearing house and a SAF blending mandate to encourage greater uptake than the CCC proposes, and will consider further policy mechanisms to give greater confidence to UK SAF providers

3.19 There is no global regulatory standard for SAF sustainability and the UK is taking a leading role in pressing for this

3.20 Our vision is to scale up SAF so they are primarily used on long haul flights where zero emissions aircraft may be challenged, creating new green jobs for the UK

Existing policy commitments:

  • We will shortly consult on a UK SAF mandate setting out our level of ambition for future SAF uptake and defining the scope, technology, compliance and reporting implications underpinned by it
  • We have formed the Clean Skies for Tomorrow SAF Ambassadors group, which will develop, pilot and promote industry-led policy proposals for national SAF policies, ahead of COP26
  • We will continue to engage SAF stakeholders through the Jet Zero Council SAF Delivery Group, to ensure future SAF policy is robust
  • We have consulted on the possibility of expanding the RTFO to reward recycled carbon fuels (RCF) which are produced from fossil wastes that cannot be avoided, reused or recycled
  • We are supporting the development of SAF through the Green Fuel, Green Skies competition, through which companies will be able to bid for a share of £15 million in 2021-22 to kickstart the development of first-of-a-kind production plants in the UK. Successful projects are expected to be announced in summer 2021.

• We will establish a SAF clearing house to enable early stage aviation fuel testing as an essential capability to support our decarbonisation agenda.

New policy proposals:

  • We will consider whether further policies are needed to provide SAF producers with greater confidence and encourage UK production
  • We will continue to negotiate in ICAO for comprehensive SAF sustainability standards and to work towards a future global SAF objective. We will also work with smaller groups of states to coordinate on SAF policies where this can be complementary to ICAO’s work
  • We will look at the feasibility of using SAF on UK Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes
  • Alongside the five-year reviews of this strategy, we will undertake a SAF-specific review by 2030, once the supportive policy framework is in place, and SAF production is being scaled up, and use this to confirm a SAF trajectory to 2050
  • We will work across government to pioneer the accelerated procurement and use of SAF.

LADACAN comments

There remains considerable scepticism among environmental groups about whether SAF is sustainable, whether that is the best way to use biomass, and whether it could be produced at the envisaged scale without disrupting key sectors such as food production.

Consultation questions:

7. Do you agree or disagree with the overall approach for the development and uptake of SAF in the UK?

8. What further measures are needed to support the development of a globally competitive UK SAF industry and increase SAF usage?

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