Assessing the sustainability implications of alternative aviation fuels
Estimating sustainable aviation fuel feedstock availability to meet growing European Union demand
The European Union (EU) is considering ambitious alternative fuel policies to decarbonize aviation. However, it is critical that policymakers set realistic sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) deployment goals that match the amount of fuel that could be made from available feedstock. This study evaluates the EU resource base that can support SAF production from 2025 to 2035, focusing only on the potential volumes available from sustainably available feedstocks.
This analysis uses a resource and technology deployment-constrained approach to estimate the quantity of advanced SAFs that could be supplied to EU aviation as a share of EU-wide jet fuel consumption. Without taking into account the political or economic barriers to SAF production, we estimate that there is a sufficient resource base to support approximately 3.4 million tonnes of advanced SAF production annually, or 5.5% of projected EU jet fuel demand in 2030. However, a resource base alone is not necessarily sufficient to scale up SAF deployment from present day volumes of below 0.1%. While producing SAF from waste oils is the most technically mature SAF conversion pathway, these waste oils are highly resource-constrained and are already largely consumed by the road sector. High near-term targets for SAF blending may only incentivize the diversion of waste oils from existing uses in the road sector, approaching approximately 2% of 2030 jet fuel demand from waste oil alone. Moving beyond 2% of SAF deployment will require targeted support for more conversion pathways with more challenging economics and uncertain production timelines, such as lignocellulosic biofuels and electrofuels.