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  • The U.K. Department for Transport

UK SAF industry goes from forest waste to new heights with £53 million boost

Passengers are another step closer to flying without carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions thanks to £53 million (USD$66 million) of U.K.-government funding announced Nov. 17.

From utilizing forest waste to transforming power to liquid fuel, nine pioneering projects helping to create a brighter, cleaner future have been awarded a share of £53 million in the latest round of the Department for Transport Advanced Fuels Fund.

The full £135 million (USD$168 million) AFF pot is designed to help companies convert waste materials and byproducts such as household waste like cooking oil and industrial gases into fuels.

It can also help achieve greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions savings of more than 70 percent compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. 

Winning projects from both rounds—spanning the length and breadth of the country from the Orkney Islands to the North of England and South Wales—will help create up to 10,000 green jobs by 2035 and boost the economy by around £1.8 billion (USD$2.24 billion) every year.

This round’s winning projects include a demo plant converting sawmill and forestry waste and a commercial plant using power-to-liquid technology to convert CO2 and green hydrogen into plane fuel.

Together, both projects could create over 70,000 metric tons of SAF a year.

As a result, the U.K. could soon have the capability to produce up to 810,000 tons of SAF—enough to fly around the equator of Earth an estimated 3,108 times.

“The investment we’re announcing today demonstrates our confidence in the U.K.’s SAF industry—creating jobs, encouraging overseas investment and leveling up communities across the whole country,” said U.K. Transport Secretary Mark Harper. “Thanks to this government’s backing, the U.K. is quickly becoming a sustainable aviation fuel superpower—ensuring people can continue to travel how they want in a way that’s fit for the future.”

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines U.K., said, “Delivering a U.K. SAF industry this decade is a must if we are to drive down emissions from aviation, meet our 10 percent SAF mandate and reduce costs for consumers. We welcome this latest funding announcement, which will support a number of innovative projects across all parts of the U.K. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together but more work is needed, in particular, to deliver the initial plants under construction by 2025, while keeping overall transition costs as low as possible for passengers, so air travel can continue to be enjoyed by all in the decades to come.”

With the upcoming SAF mandate requiring at least 10 percent of jet fuel to come from sustainable feedstocks by 2030, the AFF is helping deliver that target.

This will see the industry save up to 2.7 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent (CO2e) annually—equal to taking nearly 1.3 million petrol cars off the road in a year.

“We applaud the U.K. and Department for Transport for recognizing the need to support SAF production in order to expedite the decarbonization of aviation,” said Amy Hebert, CEO of Arcadia eFuels, which has been awarded £12.3 million (USD$15.3 million) through the AFF. “Grant programs like this, combined with other incentives, will help build commercial-scale facilities for the production of SAF.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said, “Here on Teesside, we are leading the way in sustainable aviation fuel and this announcement just goes to show it with 75 percent of this fund going to local projects. We are committed to making aviation sustainable to secure the future of Teesside Airport and by getting ahead of the curve we can make sure we are best placed to lead the transition to SAF. These fantastic projects will create local jobs for local people and make our airport a key player in the industry. Let there be no mistake about it—we get things done and we get there first.”

As the U.K. SAF industry goes from strength to strength, it’s important it also has the capability to test the fuel being made, making the transition from the labs to the sky faster and easier than before.

That’s why a sustainable aviation fuel clearinghouse has been launched at the University of Sheffield, transforming the sector and helping to create jobs and grow the economy.

Thanks to £700,000 (USD$871,360) in government funding—with another £5.35 million (USD$6.66 million) earmarked to support costs associated with fuel testing—this central hub will coordinate the testing and approval of new SAF, removing barriers to overseas investment and supporting the growth of SAF expertise in the U.K.

Not only will this make the U.K. an attractive place to invest, but it will also deliver SAF to internationally recognized safety and technical standards and help meet crucial SAF-mandate targets.

Bringing more investment, production and jobs ahead of its European counterparts, the clearinghouse is making clean flying a global reality with the U.K. placed firmly at the center.

“We’re thrilled to be able to announce the selection of the Energy Institute at the University of Sheffield as the home of the U.K. SAF clearinghouse,” said Prof. Mohamed Pourkashanian, head of the Energy Institute at the University of Sheffield. “This significant and much-needed addition to the U.K.’s decarbonization landscape will help to reduce barriers to SAF delivery and will take a vital step on the journey to make SAFs a viable solution for the future of aviation.”

Today’s announcements are a milestone marker ahead of the world’s first transatlantic flight using 100 percent SAF Nov. 28—backed by up to £1 million (USD$1.24 million) in government investment.

With less than two weeks to go, the flight will usher in a new normal for international travel—making guilt-free flying a reality.

Virgin Atlantic’s flagship Boeing 787s, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will take off from London Heathrow and make the journey to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.


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