Net-Zero Goals in US Require All SAF Pathways

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Existing and potential US suppliers of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) have to scale up dramatically if the aviation sector is to meet a goal for net-zero emissions by 2050 (JFI Apr.1'21). Production capacity needs to reach 3 billion gallons by 2030, according to a Department of Energy (DOE) official speaking at a virtual symposium hosted by the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative. The government has a crucial role to play to accelerate that process, said Michael Berube -- the DOE's assistant secretary for sustainable transportation. The Biden administration is offering support in its budget proposal, which includes an SAF blender's tax credit starting at $1.50 per gallon as well as $1 billion in federal funds to spur biofuels development. US production of SAF totaled just 4.5 million gallons in 2020, a tiny sliver of the 27 billion gallons that airlines lifted in the US before Covid-19 decimated air travel demand. Suppliers including Neste, Gevo and World Energy produced that volume. World Fuels Services, Avfuel and Signature Flight Support are working with those firms to supply SAF to commercial airlines and business aviation. But they said availability is still a challenge, with SAF demand outstripping supply by a wide margin despite its higher cost versus conventional jet fuel (JFI May28'21). Stakeholders say that more than 85 plants are needed across the country to meet projected demand growth. Crucial Policy Support Numerous producers cited policy support as a critical factor for SAF commercialization. Capacity to produce renewable fuels will rise to nearly 4 billion gallons between now and 2024, said the Advanced Biofuels Association's Mike McAdams. But most of that is renewable diesel from firms such as Marathon, Diamond Green Diesel, Holly Frontier and World Energy. ABFA is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to modify its compliance rules to put SAF on a level playing field with renewable diesel. He said that ABFA would like to see blending obligations under the renewable fuel standard revised so that SAF can reach a 30%-40% threshold in total jet fuel supplies by 2040. More than a dozen SAF producers gave updates on their progress to commercialize. Fulcrum's Sierra Biofuels plant in Reno, Nevada is now up and running. Its CEO Jim Macias pointed out their technology to produce large volumes of SAF at lower cost from MSW not only reduces landfills but also offers a solution for end-of-life plastics. The 100,000 gallons per year facility will produce synthetic crude that can be processed into renewable fuels. A second plant is under construction in Gary, Indiana, with a third planned for Houston, Texas. Red Rock's Lakeview, Oregon facility is due on line late next year processing woody biomass into 15 million gallons/yr of renewable fuels, with the SAF already committed to FedEx and Southwest under eight-year offtake agreements. Waste feedstock from forest floors and logging operations can help reduce catastrophic wildfires through forest management. LanzaJet plans to replicate its alcohol-to-jet process at facilities around the world. SAF will comprise 95% of the output at its first plant due on line in Georgia in 2022. All the supplies are committed under offtake agreements. Its CEO Jimmy Samartzis said that SAF projects had reached an "inflection point" as technologies are scaled up and capital from financial institutions becomes more readily available to meet sustainability targets (JFI Apr.9'21). Federal and state governments have a huge to play through regulations such as the low-carbon fuel standard in California, mandates, tax credits, grants, loan guarantees and low-interest loans. Washington state's introduction of a clean fuel standard last month and the Port of Seattle's mandate for 10% SAF benefit NW Advanced Biofuels as it proceeds with two plants. SkyNRG's new Americas division is working with LanzaJet to build facilities in California and across the Pacific Northwest, where progressive low-carbon policies have spurred SAF development. Conventional refining companies are likely to become more involved as investors, partners and owners of stand-alone firms as shareholder pressure accelerates a transition to clean energy. Phillips 66 is a front-runner with its new subsidiary Rodeo Renewed. Its manager for renewable energy, Nik Weinberg-Lynn, said its Rodeo plant near San Francisco will be transformed into one of the largest renewable fuels facilities in the world with capacity for up to 800 million gallons (52,000 barrels per day). "Right now we are incentivized to make renewable diesel, but if the market is there," the plant could churn out 100,000 gallons of SAF. Air BP's Global Aviation Sustainability Director Andreea Moyes explained how the into-wing giant is putting together an "advantaged portfolio" by evaluating a wide range of projects. These run the gamut from joint ventures such as its investment in Fulcrum to the possibility of investing in dedicated renewable fuel facilities. Cristina Haus, New York

Carbon Capture (CCS), Low-Carbon Policy, Biofuels (incl. SAF)
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