EBACE2024: Experts Say SAF Supply, Demand Rising; Production Expected to Increase

29 May 2024

Aircraft fueling with SAF

With European Union mandates on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) scheduled to take effect next year, experts at the 2024 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE2024) said demand for the environmentally friendly Jet A alternative is increasing, as is availability in many countries worldwide.

The drop-in fuel is made from sustainable feedstocks, including cooking and plant oils, biomass and agricultural residues. It’s a linchpin for business aviation’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 because it can reduce total lifecycle emissions by up to 80%.

During a wide-ranging discussion at the convention, an expert panel of SAF-focused professionals talked about remaining challenges, as business aircraft operators seek to embrace the new fuel.

“We are starting to see a significant uptick in demand – not just in Europe – but globally,” said Tom Cahill, sustainable fuels advisor for World Fuel Services Europe. “And that’s being matched by a significant increase in supply, as well.”

Production of SAF continues to scale up aggressively. In 2023, worldwide SAF production reached more than 600 million liters (158.5 million gallons) – doubling output from the previous year, according to the International Air Transport Association. In fact, SAF was available to EBACE2024 exhibitors for uplift at Geneva Airport.

Last year, in an effort to spur SAF production, the European Union passed the ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative. It mandates fuel suppliers provide a minimum 2% share of SAF at EU airports beginning in 2025, tripling to 6% in 2030, graduating to 20% in 2035 and topping out at 70% by 2050.

“What the EU Commission has now done is sending a clear investment signal to fuel suppliers and to the whole industry, with the SAF mandate,” said Hendrik Stannius, SAF supply operator at AirBP. “It effectively says, we want this much SAF in the market and we want it, whatever the cost, and we want it to increase until 2050. So that’s a very, very strong investment signal which is challenging, but highly welcome. As availability ramps up more and more, we expect SAF prices to come down in the future.”

The EU mandates come as other nations – including Portugal, France and Germany – also implement their own mandates. “Mandates are fantastic but it would be nice to have a bit more consolidation,” said Andrew Thomas, director of sustainability at VistaJet. Aligning mandates internationally, he said, would help simplify SAF use for operators.

Some airports where SAF is unavailable offer operators the ability to purchase the alternative fuel on paper through book-and-claim transactions. With book and claim, operators can buy actual molecules of SAF located at other airports. That SAF would actually be burned by other aircraft, while the purchaser gets credit for their net-zero goals without burning SAF directly.

However, the ability to purchase SAF through book-and-claim continues to be difficult in Europe. “We do see some challenges still with EU regulation, because European SAF suppliers can’t use book-and-claim certificates to meet the EU mandates that will begin next year,” said Stannius.

The panel agreed that much of the challenge surrounding book-and-claim involves increasing operator awareness about how it works and how to use it.

“We’ll get over it,” said Willie Brewster, operations product quality manager (fuels), Signature Aviation. “You just need to work together and work as a team to share that knowledge. When we all get something, we share it as a win for everybody.”