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New competition to support Sustainable Aviation Fuel development launched

Posted on 19/07/2018

KTN convened airlines, manufacturers, fuel companies and other organisations in the SAF supply chain at a networking event and competition launch.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is still a relatively young industry. It’s been ten years since the first test flight on SAF and since then, over 100,000 flights have operated on SAF.

KTN runs the SAF Special Interest Group (SAF SIG), which aims to bring together the supply chain to foster collaboration and innovation to accelerate production of SAF in the UK.

Over 100 delegates from across the supply chain met in Birmingham last week (Thursday 12th July) to network, hear how SAF is contributing to the Clean Growth strategy, and be briefed on a new competition to help fuel companies grow.

IATA’s Robert Boyd set the scene. He talked about the industry’s ‘Growth Conundrum’. “70 billion passengers have taken a flight in 104 years. But the next 70 billion will take just 20 years” he said. If we are to enjoy safe, clean, affordable air travel in the long term, SAF must play a key role. But currently less than 0.1% of all fuel is bio-derived and the industry, which burns 1.5bn barrels of fuel a year, remains heavily reliant on Kerosene. He said we were moving in the right direction with the industry aligning its views on the subject, more fuels being produced and more airlines signing off-take agreements. The target for 2020 is 1 million flights using SAF.

Rachel Solomon Williams, Head of Low Carbon Fuels at the Department for Transport provided an update on Government policy. She said in the long term, the Government favoured waste-based fuels over crop-based fuels. The overall renewable energy target is 32% by 2030 (EU wide) and Brexit is unlikely to affect this. Rachel also presented two capital investment projects worth £25m under the Future Fuels for Flight and Freight. These projects focus on HGV and Aviation, two sectors which cannot easily be decarbonised. She also announced the Department’s intention to publish an Aviation Strategy white paper in 2019, which will include a section on SAF.

KTN’s Darren Hill launched a new ‘landscape map’ for SAF. These maps, which have been developed by KTN, aim to provide a visual, easy-to-use and simplified version of a particular supply chain. They allow users to easily and quickly source data within an otherwise complex and confusing eco-system. Over 100 organisations have been listed so far (more can be added by request) and KTN is encouraging people to use the tool to find out who’s working within the space and potentially find partners.

After the networking lunch break, we heard from number of technologists who have developed SAF projects, working with large aviation companies like Airbus, Boeing and Shell. Neville Hargreaves from renewable fuel company, Velocys, spoke about their plans to build a fuel plant which will create SAF from household waste and the fuels will be used on British Airways aircraft. The project has been supported by a DfT grant of over £400k and matched with private investment.

Carl Wolf of biotech company LanzaTech described their project, which takes industrial waste gases and converts them into ethanol and other high value hydrocarbons. Supported by Virgin Atlantic and other partners, they are planning to build the first large scale alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) facility in the UK and have raised $250m so far.

And KTN’s Michelle Carter unveiled a new competition, called Sustainable Aviation Fuel for Clean Growth. There are two streams to the competition: Stream 1 offers fuel testing and expertise to support fuel producers to gain approval and certification of new fuels. Stream 2 offers the chance for an organisation to acquire an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) which has been donated by British Airways.

Find out more about the competition and apply

Watch the highlights