New roadmap outlines how to achieve US government’s SAF Grand Challenge goals
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced Sept. 23 the release of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge Roadmap, a comprehensive plan that outlines a government-wide strategy for scaling up new technologies to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) across the U.S. airline industry.
A collaboration between the U.S. DOE, USDA, EPA, Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation, the roadmap will spur technological innovation to produce SAF, position the country as a global leader in the emerging SAF market, and enable America to meet President Joe Biden’s clean-energy goal of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
The SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap ensures alignment of government and industry actions and coordinates national policies to achieve the goals of the SAF Grand Challenge, which was signed in 2021 by the partnering agencies and consists of two major goals:
Achieve a minimum of a 50 percent reduction in lifecycle GHG emissions compared to conventional fuel
Supply sufficient SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050
The SAF Grand Challenge objectives include expanding SAF supply and end use, reducing its cost, and enhancing its sustainability.
The roadmap lays out six action areas spanning all activities with the potential to impact the SAF Grand Challenge objectives. These six areas include:
Building supply chains
Policy and valuation analysis
Enabling end use
Communicating progress and building support
The roadmap also helps position the U.S. as an exporter of SAF technology and fuels to support other countries in their efforts to decarbonize aviation.
“From field to flight, this data-driven technology strategy will help guide America’s scientists and industry to chart our course to clean skies,” Granholm said. “Not only is SAF critical to decarbonizing the airline industry and reaching our climate goals, but this plan will help American companies corner the market on a valuable emerging industry.”
U.S. commercial aviation currently consumes approximately 10 percent of all transportation energy and contributes 2 percent of the nation’s C02 emissions.
SAF has the potential to deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint—emerging SAF pathways even have a net-negative greenhouse-gas (GHG) footprint.
SAF can be made from renewable biomass and other resources, including corn grain, algae, agricultural and forestry residues, and municipal solid-waste streams, and enough biomass can be collected sustainably each year in the United States to produce 50 billion to 60 billion gallons of low-carbon fuels.
Growing, sourcing, and producing SAF from renewable and waste resources can also create new economic opportunities in agricultural and rural communities, improve the environment, and even boost aircraft performance.
“Today’s announcement charts out actions to ensure crops used for fuel—that are grown here at home by hard-working Americans—can create opportunities for American farmers, business owners and rural communities,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The industry-trade association and lobbying group Airlines for America applauded the release of the SAF roadmap. “SAF development will be essential for airlines to further reduce their emissions,” said Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America. “U.S. airlines have pledged to work with government and other stakeholders to make 3 billion gallons of cost-competitive SAF available to aircraft operators by 2030, and this roadmap outlines a variety of initiatives to help make that goal a reality.”
Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO, said, “Our ambitious path forward includes a near-term goal of replacing 10 percent of our jet fuel with SAF by the end of 2030, which will require continued work alongside our suppliers and policymakers so that SAF can become as economical and widely available as traditional jet fuel, and we welcome the finalization of the SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap.”
The full Roadmap report and more information about the SAF Grand Challenge can be found on DOE’s website.