SAF Takes Off as Big Oil Gets On Board

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The energy transition in aviation fuels is gathering pace as interest from major oil companies increases. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) already had momentum before the recent spike in prices for fossil jet fuel and other oil products. Legislation for new blender’s tax credits in the US and upcoming blending mandates in Europe have helped convince even the most traditional jet fuel suppliers that the transition is happening in aviation and that they need to get involved. US supermajor Exxon Mobil’s sudden interest in SAF is being seen as a real barometer of how far things have moved. The company put biofuels and carbon capture at the center of its transition strategy after a shareholder rebellion last year. Exxon has struck three SAF deals in Europe already in 2022. It is now supplying Neste-made SAF to Virgin Atlantic at the UK’s Heathrow Airport, having already struck a deal with Neste to supply airports in France, and bought a stake in Norwegian SAF start-up Biojet. Although SAF still comprises a miniscule fraction of the global jet fuel market, airline demand for it is growing much faster after the pandemic than the recovery in fossil jet demand. This is capturing Big Oil's attention. SAF, along with changing travel habits and a more fuel-efficient fleet, mean the projected recovery in jet demand to 2019 levels has now been pushed back to 2027.

Biofuels (incl. SAF), Jet Fuel, Refining, Oil Products
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