Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

Global renewable fuel production is forecast to total around 69bn litres by 2028 due to the development of new refineries and expansion of existing facilities, according to latest forecasts by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Although global production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) was set to increase as a proportion of that overall forecast, policy support was needed to diversify sources, IATA said on 6 June.

The organisation, which represents around 300 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic, said the expected increased production would have a wide geographic footprint covering Asia, Europe and North America.

“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,” IATA’s director general Willie Walsh.

“We [also] need continued approval for more diversification of methods and feedstocks available for SAF production.”

With these two measures in place, Walsh said the sector could be confident expected 2028 production levels would be in line with IATA’s recently published roadmaps to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“That is important as we are counting on SAF to provide about 62% of the carbon mitigation needed in 2050,” he added.

In 2022, SAF production tripled to around 300M litres and project announcements for potential SAF producers were increasing rapidly, IATA said.

According to IATA, more than 130 relevant renewable fuel projects had been announced by more than 85 producers in 30 countries, with each project planning to produce SAF within their wider production of renewable fuels.

As it took around three-to-five-years from a project being announced and its commercialisation, a further increase in production until 2030 could be expected if other projects were announced in the coming years, the association said.

If renewable energy production reached 69bn litres by 2028 as estimated, the trajectory to 100bn litres by 2030 would be on track, IATA said. If just 30% of that total produced SAF, the industry could achieve 30bn litres 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 (LTAG) 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,” Walsh added.

IATA said the case for diversification within current sustainability criteria was clear as currently 85% of future SAF volume over the next five years would be derived from Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) – one of nine certified pathways – which was dependent on limited availability of feedstock such as waste fat, oil and grease feedstocks (FOGs).

The association highlighted three main ways to achieve SAF diversification: increase already certified SAF pathways, such as Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) & Fischer-Tropsch (FT); accelerate R&D for SAF production pathways that were currently in development; and scale up feedstock/feedstock conversion technology.

However, increasing these pathways to a commercialised level would require policy leadership from governments, IATA said.