Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) provides the ethanol industry with great opportunity.

What is Sustainable Aviation Fuel?

Ethanol-based sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is used by airlines in their effort to become more carbon neutral. With limited alternatives to power today’s modern aircraft, SAF is expected to make up the majority of emissions reductions for the aviation industry. In 2022, global production of SAF amounted to just ~80 million gallons with additional capacity being planned around the globe to meet growing demand.

Growing Demand for SAF

Countries and companies around the world are planning to increase SAF usage, setting the stage for industry development and expansion. Corporate targets of SAF usage amount to 3.3 billion gallons annually by 2030. Governments are also incentivizing or requiring SAF usage through targets (U.S. – 3 billion gallons), mandates (EU, Japan) or various credits (Canada’s Clean Fuels program, state level low-carbon markets, state level tax incentives, Clean Fuel Production Credit – 45Z).

SAF is expected to add value to ethanol of at least $1.25 to $2 per gallon.

That translates to at least $125-$200 million annually for a typical 100 mgpy ethanol plant.

How is SAF Made?

There are three ways Sustainable Aviation Fuel is made:

1. Ethanol to Jet
Ethanol is a low-carbon, scalable feedstock for the production of SAF.

The industry has steadily improved its carbon intensity through efficiency gains and now has the opportunity to make a step-change reduction with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

With reputable ETJ technology providers, ethanol is poised to supply the growing SAF market.

2. Hydroprocessed Esters & Fatty Acids (HEFA)
The vast majority of SAF produced today is through the HEFA process using fats, oils and greases.

While a proven production process, the segment faces headwinds due to feedstock supply constraints and competition for the same inputs as the growing renewable diesel industry.

3. Emerging Technologies
New technologies being developed for SAF include gasification and electricity to liquid fuels.

Technological maturity, high capital & operating costs and large renewable energy requirements present challenges for large-scale deployment.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration creates ample opportunities for efficiencies and value creation throughout the supply chain.

"Carbon Capture and Sequestration creates market opportunities for ethanol producers providing long-term benefits for the industry and all of agriculture."

The GREET Model Necessary for Sustainable Airline Fuel

Utilizing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will be essential in meeting the United States’ 2030 ambitious SAF goals.

GREET® Model

The Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Technologies Model

The GREET model is an analytical tool that simulates the energy use and emissions output of various vehicle and fuel combinations.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the GREET model accurately accounts for technological advancements and climate-smart agricultural practices that reduce the carbon intensity of feedstock production, enhance sustainability and enable the agricultural sector to lower carbon emissions.

The current model that is used to determine Carbon Intensity for SAF is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and United Nations standard that is favored by countries like China and Russia. The ICAO has not been updated in over a decade, and actually rates petroleum-based jet fuel better than U.S. corn-grain ethanol, which is patently false.