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  • Federal Aviation Administration

FAA awards research grants to build SAF supply chains

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Federal Aviation Administration is tapping some of the nation’s top research institutions to build sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supply chains in different regions across the country. More than $1.4 million will go to five universities to undertake the research. Since 2014, the FAA has invested more than $13 million in the effort being conducted by ASCENT, the FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment.

“Sustainable aviation fuels are a critical part of meeting our climate goals for aviation, and we want to help that industry grow and create jobs right here in the U.S.,” said Pete Buttigieg, transportation secretary. “These funds will help build regional supply chains so that communities across our country—many of them rural—feel the economic benefits of producing sustainable aviation fuel.”

The universities’ research concentrates on identifying regional feedstock that can become SAF using the region’s existing infrastructure, creating a dependable supply within reach of airport demand. Researchers have and continue to look at other barriers that need to be eliminated to drive down the cost of SAF.

The investment builds on the federal government’s September announcement of the SAF Grand Challenge, designed to catalyze the production of at least 3 billion gallons per year by 2030.

The research teams on this project include:

Washington State University: $412,000

  • Examine the potential for retrofitting existing pulp and paper mills, sugarcane mills, dry corn ethanol plants, and petroleum refineries to enable jet fuel production from forest harvests, waste materials, and various crops

  • Evaluate supply chains for their ability to create jobs, aid U.S. industry, and add resiliency to the national liquid fuel supply

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $450,000

  • Consider the economic and environmental sustainability of a range of fuel pathways, including the coproduction of SAF in existing petroleum refineries

University of Tennessee: $100,000

  • Support the development of an industry to produce SAF using woody biomass feedstock in the Central Appalachian Region

University of Hawaii: $100,000

  • Develop a model for tropical oil supply chains and assess gasification systems to produce fuel or hydrogen from construction and demolition landfill waste

Purdue University: $350,000

  • Understand the land-use impacts of SAF on greenhouse-gas emissions

Today’s funding is part of $14.4 million in grants to teams at 13 universities across the country to undertake research critical to building a sustainable aviation system. A detailed description of all 35 projects and their associated grant amounts can be found here. Among these is a new project that builds on a supply-chain effort to examine how hydrogen production can be leveraged to produce SAF with maximum greenhouse gas emission reductions at the lowest possible costs.

Last month, the U.S. released its first-ever comprehensive Aviation Climate Action Plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Earlier this year, the FAA announced more than $100 million in matching grants to increase aircraft efficiency, reduce noise and aircraft emissions, and develop and implement new software to reduce taxi delays.


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