The Virgin Boeing 787 airliner took flight today (28 November), departing from Heathrow to JFK International Airport, in a milestone that the aviation industry claims is a significant step in achieving the sector’s goal of hitting ‘Jet Zero’. The trip was powered using 50 tonnes of SAF, 88 per cent of which was produced by waste fats – such as used cooking oil and animal fats – that cannot re-enter the food chain with the remainder created using waste derived from corn production in the US. The Government claims that the use of SAFs offers a GHG emission reduction of approximately 70 per cent compared to standard jet fuel over its full life cycle.

The aviation industry views the use of SAFs as critical to achieving net-zero emissions in the sector. This approach is backed by the UK Government, which has implemented a mandate requiring at least 10 per cent of jet fuel to come from sustainable sources by 2030. However, uptake remains slow; just 0.1 per cent of jet fuels consumed worldwide come from sustainable sources while the fuel currently costs three to five times as much as regular kerosene.

In efforts to accelerate the transition to Jet Zero, the Government has provided over £53 million in funding across nine projects within the country with the hopes of scaling up the production of SAFs. The efforts to make the fuels more readily available include a commitment to opening five commercial SAF plants by 2025 with hopes that the UK will become a leader in the field. Despite the success of the flight, Paul Thompson, Head of Renewable Transport Fuels at the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), warned that SAFs are not a panacea for the aviation industry’s emission problem.

Source: European Commission

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