FORCES TO ACCELERATE SAF IN THE UAE AND GLOBALLY

The adoption of Sustainable Aviation  Fuel (SAF) within the UAE and  internationally is accelerating due to a  confluence of environmental, strategic,  and economic factors. Insights from  industry leaders Steven Gillard of  Boeing and Preeti Jain, Léa Jouannin from IATA highlight the multifaceted  drivers behind this shift. 

What are the driving factors propelling  the acceleration of Sustainable  Aviation Fuel (SAF) adoption within  the UAE and internationally?

“Neat SAF can reduce CO2 emissions of  aviation fuel over its lifecycle by 75% to  84% compared to traditional jet fuel and  offers the industry’s largest potential to  reduce carbon emissions over the next  30 years,” says Steven Gillard, Regional  Director, Middle East and Europe  Sustainability, Boeing.  

As Boeing, we know that we will need  massive amounts of SAF if we are to  meet civil aviation’s commitment to  

net zero by 2050. SAF can be blended  with conventional jet fuel up to 50% on  today’s airplanes for commercial flight. 

Boeing’s Initiatives and Partnerships: Boeing has been a pioneer in making  SAF a reality, working with airlines,  engine manufacturers, and others to  qualify and conduct biofuel test flights in  2008 and gain approval for commercial  use in 2011. Boeing is helping catalyse  SAF scaling through various efforts: 

Testing, Technology Investments,  and Product Compatibility:  Continuous work to ensure aircraft  compatibility with SAF. 

SAF Procurement: Boeing has  made significant purchases of  blended SAF for its operations, with  increasing volumes year over year. 

Industry Partnerships:  Collaborations with various entities,  including Emirates, ADNOC,  Etihad, and Masdar, to support SAF  development and scaling in the UAE  and globally. 

Policy Advocacy: Support for  policy mechanisms that stimulate  SAF supply and demand, such as  mandates, subsidies, and standards. 

Gillard emphasizes the importance of  policy mechanisms to stimulate SAF  growth, noting the significance of  discussions at ICAO’s Third Conference  on Aviation Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3)  in Dubai and the adoption of a global  aspirational goal by ICAO. 

“The UAE’s commitment to  sustainability, collaborative initiatives,  supportive policies, and local capacity building are key drivers propelling  SAF adoption both domestically and  globally,” says Preeti Jain, Net Zero  Transition Programs, IATA and Léa  Jouannin, Manager Climate Policy,  IATA 

Environmental Concerns and Strategic  

Vision: The UAE implements a holistic  approach that aims to balance energy  demand, environmental responsibility,  Government policy plays an and economic prosperity. Key  components include:

Capacity Building: Hosting  international conferences like  COP28 and ICAO CAAF/3 to  commit to reducing aviation carbon  intensity. 

Diversification of Energy Sources:  Embracing a balanced energy mix,  including clean gas, nuclear power,  solar, wind, and biofuels. 

Job Creation: Targeting 50,000  new green jobs by 2030 to  foster economic growth while  safeguarding natural resources. 

Economic and Social Growth: As a  global aviation hub, the UAE vision to  integrates sustainable aviation practices  will to drive long-term economic growth.  

Investments in modern airports,  sustainable aviation practices, and  infrastructure stimulate international  trade and eco-conscious tourism. 

SAF Feedstock Opportunities and  Regulatory Support: The UAE  explores various feedstock options for  SAF production, capitalizing on local  resources to bolster SAF feasibility.  

Increasing regulatory support, such  as the UAE’s National SAF Roadmap,  outlines key principles for SAF adoption,  including: 

Establishing Ambition 

Accelerating Technology  Deployment and Innovation 

Developing a National Regulatory  Environment 

Building Local Capacity 

Leading International Collaboration 

The UAE’s General Policy for SAF  includes a voluntary target of supplying  1% of fuel to national airlines using  locally produced SAF by 2031,  encouraging technological advancement  and innovation.

How are governmental policies and  regulations influencing the uptake of  SAF in the UAE and on a global scale? 

instrumental role in ensuring an  enabling environment to leverage all  levers driving aviation towards reaching  net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.  

While advancements in fuel and  infrastructure efficiencies, technological  innovations, and operational  enhancements are essential, a significant  transition to sustainable energy sources  is crucial, with a particular emphasis  on deploying and utilizing drop-in  renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

Steven Gillard
Regional Director, Middle East and Europe Sustainability, Boeing

Possible pathways to net-zero emissions  by 2050 differ significantly across  the published roadmaps of several  organizations. However, in all cases,  Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) are  expected to be the primary driver,  contributing between 24%-70% (median  value of 53%) of the industry’s total  reductions.  

In November 2023, ICAO member States  collectively committed to reducing  the carbon intensity of international  aviation by 5% by 2030 using SAF, Low  Carbon Aviation Fuels (LCAF), and  other cleaner aviation energies. 

This commitment has spurred an uptick  in governmental policies and regulations  aimed at promoting SAF adoption, both  domestically and globally. Governments,  including the UAE, are incentivizing  investment, production, and uptake of  SAF through measures like tax credits  and mandates. These mandates provide  crucial demand signals for the emerging  SAF production sector. 

Preeti Jain
Head, Net Zero Transition Programs, IATA

However, policymakers must consider  various factors to ensure optimal  economic outcomes, such as pairing  mandates with well-designed programs,  timing their introduction appropriately,  and ensuring technology and feedstock  neutrality. Globally, trends in SAF  policy setting include initiatives beyond  traditional markets, integration of  volumetric and carbon intensity-based SAF production, aiming to produce  700 million litres annually by 2031.  A voluntary target of supplying 1%  of national airlines’ fuel using locally  produced SAF by 2031 has been set.  

“To bridge the supply-demand gap, we need  novel financing instruments for accelerated  deployment of SAF pathways till they achieve  economies of scale.”

The National Sustainable Aviation  Fuel Roadmap estimates the need for  $7 billion to $9 billion in investments  to achieve production targets.  Additionally, the UAE is already laying  the groundwork for SAF projects and  exploring feedstock opportunities to  bolster its SAF capabilities further. 

What technological advancements or  innovations are facilitating the rapid  expansion of SAF production and  usage?  

Steven mentions, Boeing has been a  pioneer in making SAF a reality, and  has a long track record with advancing  alternative fuels: 

2008: Boeing worked with Virgin  Atlantic, engine manufacturers  and others to qualify and conduct  biofuel test flights in 2008  

2011: Boeing helps gain approval for  SAF in commercial use 

2012: Boeing ecoDemonstrator  program started flying on a SAF  blend 

2018: The Boeing ecoDemonstrator  flight test program made the world’s  first commercial airplane flight  using 100% sustainable fuels with a  777 Freighter, in collaboration with  FedEx Express. 

In January 2021, Boeing committed  to ensure its commercial airplanes are  compatible with 100% SAF by 2030.  The airplanes we deliver starting in the  2030s will need to be compatible with  100% SAF as they will still be operating  by 2050. Boeing has been focusing  on testing all the airplane’s systems  that come into contact with fuel are  compatible with the future sustainable  fuels. 

2023: Boeing announced that  its SAF Aircraft Compatibility  Integrated Product Team had  developed jet reference fluids (JRFs)  and mobilized its suppliers to begin  testing  

Boeing South Carolina conducts  materials testing  

Boeing began leading an  International Aerospace  Environmental Group (IAEG) team  to coordinate 100% paraffinic SAF  testing efforts with other original  

equipment manufacturers. This  will support airports, airlines, and  other stakeholders as they prepare  to support 100% SAF-compatible  airplanes. The test results will be  shared with the American Society of  Testing and Materials International  as it develops a new standard for  SAF.  

2024: Boeing opened a Boeing  Research & Technology (BR&T)  Center in Nagoya, Japan where the  SAF engineering team is further  advancing the product compatibility  work while supporting Japan in  establishing a thriving local SAF  ecosystem. 

Boeing, together with its local partners,  has been developing region-specific  roadmaps to help scale SAF production  locally to help meet demand globally.  Our studies span the UK, Ireland, India,  UAE, Australia & New Zealand, Brazil,  South Africa, Ethiopia, with Southeast  Asia in work and a recently launched  roadmap for Japan. 

In the UAE, Boeing has established  a Sustainable Bioenergy Research  Consortium with Etihad and other  partners; and has partnered with the  UAE Ministry of Energy and the World  Economic Forum on a roadmap to  decarbonize aviation with Power-to Liquid SAF. Boeing also utilizes the  power of digital tools and puts data front  and center to help facilitate the SAF  production worldwide:

In June 2023, Boeing publicly released  its SAF Dashboard, a data visualization  tool that provides an estimate of  worldwide publicly announced SAF  production capacity and drills down  into SAF production capacity by the  country or state level. This helps airlines  and airports as they can see data specific  to their hubs or location as well as  policy makers looking to support SAF  production goals. 

To support the aviation industry as  it maps a path to net zero emissions,  Boeing created the Boeing Cascade  Climate Impact Model, a data modelling  and visualization tool that quantifies the  potential of each of aviation’s strategies  to cut emissions and can help inform the  most impactful and effective strategies  to reach net zero by 2050. 

Preeti and Léa mention, “IATA, a  leading industry association for the  world’s airlines, representing some  320 airlines encourage policies which  are harmonized across countries and  industries, while being technology and  feedstock Theagnostic.  

The SAF ecosystem are a complex  interplay of technology, policy, and  market dynamics. Despite 9 ASTM  qualified production pathways; SAF  share today stands at less than 1% of  total aviation fuel where we see HEFA as  the only dominant production route at  present and continuing to mid-term.  

Looking at ASTM pathways, approved  and under consideration, innovation  allows the harnessing of sustainable  feedstocks like bio- or municipal waste, CO2+H2, etc. to increase SAF  production and maximize SAF yields. 

To bridge the supply-demand gap,  we need novel financing instruments  for accelerated deployment of SAF  pathways till they achieve economies of  scale.

for SAF and introduce regulatory  framework is an opportune step to  support long-term economic operation  of SAF. With the UAE continued thrust  on renewable power and global SAF  ambitions, we must not forgo the role  of renewable power especially in the  context of promising PtL (power to  liquids) on the horizon for expanding  the SAF pool.  

The region can be a trendsetter where  innovative thinking must leverage  renewable power and sustainable  low-cost waste feedstocks to foster  circularity and achieve SAF production  in the region, starting today.  

This renewable power, when coupled  with bio- agri-waste based SAF units, can  create a distributed model of production  in agrarian economies and deliver socio economic development.  

As an industry in need of every drop of  SAF, it’s critical to reap the low hanging  fruits of co-processing and repurposing  RD-SAF units as the industry transitions  towards new technologies based SAF  units.  

In supply markets, stackable incentives,  and innovative accounting frameworks  like “Book & Claim” are well positioned  to enable feedstock-rich nations access  to the global aviation market and help  rapid expansion of SAF.” 

What are the economic incentives or  market forces incentivizing businesses  and industries to invest in SAF  production and utilization? 

Preeti and Léa mention, “The COP28  calling on nations to transition away  from fossil fuels or Third Conference on  Aviation Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) to  promote SAF reflects the government  recognition of SAF in all geographies.

We are already witnessing some  groundbreaking regulations and  policy intervention with an intent  of bringing down the cost of SAF  production and introducing incentives  across value chains, as in the US. On  the other spectrum, in the EU we are  seeing mandates and regulatory policy ecosystems like including aviation under  EU ETS funding mechanisms provide  a market-based mechanism to boost  innovation in low-carbon technologies,  encourage production and bridge the  price gap between SAF and commercial  jet fuel price for airlines. 

The government funding is certainly  important to kick start SAF systems  especially for building feedstock supply  chains, deploy ‘First of a Kind Unit’ and  subsequently build few more units.  

However, the accelerated deployment  can only happen with policies aimed at  reducing SAF production cost through  various incentives and attracting private  investments for creating functioning  SAF markets.  

In the context of UAE, the investment  community is already building impressive  portfolios in clean technology and  renewable energy, where SAF can be a  long-term economic prospect and we  should not miss this opportunity.  

Steven mentions, “Currently,  commercially available SAF can be two  to four times more than conventional jet  fuel. There are different types of SAF in  development, and conventional jet fuel  prices can rise and fall considerably even  over short periods of time.  

Developing regulatory and financial  incentives for the investment, research,  development, deployment, and  distribution of SAF should be a priority.  Such an incentive-based approach  would enable airlines to make purchase  commitments at prices equivalent to conventional fuel and create stable  market demand as the industry  continues to innovate and scale.

For anyone thinking of investing in  SAF they should look at it as a product  where there is a demand for exponential  supply increase to meet demand. This is  a fantastic opportunity, and this is why  we are partnering with others across  the industry to catalyse SAF scaling  through our own fuel use, with industry  partnerships and policy advocacy. It is  up to us as an industry to scale up SAF  to make it more affordable.” 

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