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UK Sustainable Aviation Fuel group goes Stateside

Posted on 10/12/2018

KTN’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel Special Interest Group (SAF SIG) has completed a mission to the USA taking five UK SMEs on behalf of Innovate UK.

The mission involved attendance at the three-day Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) Biennial General Meeting in collaboration with the Aviation Sustainability Centre (ASCENT) programme.  The five companies selected for the mission were Green Fuels Research,  E4Tech, MECCOne, Susteen Technologies and Drochaid Research.

The conference provided a platform for the companies to forge strategic business connections in the USA, further understand the global and USA markets and potential opportunities and catch up on developments in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The three-day meeting covered a huge amount of content (a detailed agenda is here) and was attended by 200 delegates from across the world.  The mission companies were able to network with representatives from US and foreign government departments, oil companies including Shell and BP, academics, airport and airline representatives including British Airways and companies at different stages of the commercialisation process.

The combination of the breadth of content and access to a wide range of players in the market was hugely beneficial for the mission companies.  The meeting looked at progress in the commercialisation and various value propositions of sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF); heard from companies at different stages in the production process of SAJF including Shell, Red Rock, LanzaTech and Neste; examined in detail the merits and availability of different feedstocks; looked at infrastructure and supply chain development; and focused on ASTM fuel qualifications and the approvals needed.

The importance of the SAF market to the USA was clearly visible, but there was also a commitment shown by countries like Canada, Australia and the Dominican Republic.  The will of the government to drive this market forward and introduce appropriate policy measures, combined with oil prices were shown to be fundamental to this market.  Airlines, the end-users, are driven by cost not by environmental sentiment and it is the cost of sustainable fuels that will drive usage.  The innovation to create the fuels from municipal waste, the forestry process, algae, crops such as tobacco and even beetle-damaged trees exists.  Refineries to convert this into sustainable fuel exist.  The expertise exists, not just in the US but in the UK too.  It needs political will to drive it forward.  Customers want greener flights – something the airports are cognisant of – but airlines operate in a world of incredibly slim margins and cost will always be the main driver.

Miloud Ouadi from Susteen Technologies echoed the sentiments of the other mission companies when he said: “This has been a beneficial conference and definitely worth attending.  The content, networking and business intelligence have been fantastic.”

Barrie King from MECCOne came away from the event saying: “There is a huge opportunity to penetrate not just the US market, but Canada and the Dominican Republic as well.  All the leads I got here were 7, 8 or 9 out of 10 – very different from a normal conference and I’m convinced there will be positive outcomes from some of these meetings.”

All the mission participants are hugely supportive of the SAF SIG and the benefits it brings to what is a nascent community in the UK.  Access to more mature markets like that in the US clearly brings benefits.