Flying Green: Navigating the skies responsibly with sustainable aviation fuel

Exploring the impact of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in revolutionizing the aviation industry, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting a more sustainable future for air travel

As the aviation sector continues to soar to new heights, there is a pressing need to address its environmental impact. Today, I want to shed light on an exciting development that has the potential to transform the narrative for flights in India and beyond – Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).

The aviation sector, as we all know, plays a pivotal role in connecting people, facilitating trade, and driving economic growth. However, it is no secret that conventional aviation fuels contribute to carbon emissions and environmental degradation. About 2% of the total carbon emissions globally is contributed by conventional aviation fuel. That’s where SAFs come into play, offering a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative.

Unlike the United States and the European Union, India does not have policies governing sustainable aviation fuel yet. The European Commission SAF mandate is expected to start in 2025 with a minimum volume of SAF at 2%. To reduce emissions, India aims to mandate the use of 1% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for domestic flights by 2025, according to the minister of petroleum and natural gas.

Market demand for air travel in India has rapidly grown in the past decade. Reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in this sector is extremely important to meet India’s commitments to reduce GHG emissions in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. It targets to reduce the emission intensity by 45% before 2030, in comparison to the emissions levels in 2005. SAFs, I can say with certainty, hold immense promise for revolutionizing the aviation industry, and their adoption can have a far-reaching impact on the Indian economy. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing our carbon footprint, we can contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future for generations to come.

Organizations are increasingly developing and licensing ready-now technologies to produce renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel at a commercial scale. For example, SAFs produced through EcofiningTM, adhere to the most stringent jet fuel standards while utilizing a variety of sustainable feedstocks. One of the remarkable advantages of SAFs is their compatibility with existing fleet technology (aircraft engines) and fuel infrastructure. It can be used as a drop-in replacement without engine modifications and currently can be used in blends of up to 50 percent with the remainder as conventional (fossil-based) jet fuel. This seamless transition ensures a smooth integration into existing operations while significantly reducing emissions.

Moreover, adopting SAFs can bring substantial economic benefits, and higher product yields compared to other available technologies, helping our environment. With a proven average catalyst cycle length of 2-to-5 years, the SAF solution minimizes downtime, saving up to $15 million in potential losses from a 7-day shutdown. While the potential of SAFs is undeniable, we must acknowledge the affordability aspect. Developing a sustainable aviation fuel infrastructure requires collaboration and concerted efforts from industry stakeholders, policymakers, and investors. By nurturing a supportive ecosystem, we can overcome initial cost challenges and establish a self-sustaining model that benefits both the environment and the economy.

The feedstock to produce SAF may come from used vegetable oil or animal fat. But it can also be ethanol that is made from sugarcane, corn, or agricultural waste. In India, agri-waste makes the most sense. The agri-waste can be converted to ethanol, which can then be converted into biofuels such as SAF and Biodiesel. This had an additional positive impact on the economy – as it has the promise of integrating the farmers and the agricultural sector in the SAF value chain. When done effectively, it can have a strong positive impact on the stakeholders in the value chain.

In India, we are witnessing positive strides in tackling this challenge. The government, the aviation industry, and various stakeholders are actively working together to develop a roadmap for SAF adoption. Initiatives such as policy incentives, research and development grants, and partnerships with fuel producers are accelerating the integration of SAFs into our aviation ecosystem.

Ashish Gaikwad,
Honeywell UOP India

As we navigate the path towards a greener aviation future, collaboration and knowledge sharing are key. It is essential to incorporate credible reports and data from reputable sources to facilitate informed decision-making. I strongly feel that if we work together, we can leverage the power of SAFs to reduce emissions, enhance air quality, and create a sustainable aviation sector that we can be proud of. We can further re-imagine India’s position in the world, as a leading supplier of SAF to a larger global market, using its vast agricultural base. This is an exciting opportunity.

In conclusion, I firmly believe that the future of the aviation sector lies in embracing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) with a focus on providing cutting-edge technologies and solutions that enable the production and widespread adoption of SAF. By working together, we have the power to propel the aviation industry towards a greener, more sustainable tomorrow. I invite you to come with me and take flight into a future that prioritizes environmental stewardship and sustainable practices while driving economic growth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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