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Future technologies for Sustainable Aviation Fuels

12 October 2022

WSS Energy have continued our work in sustainable aviation fuels through a project investigating how likely cutting-edge technologies are likely to mature and deploy SAF at scale.


The project, for a large EPC client, investigated the SAF value chain – from innovations in point source and direct air capture of CO2 to lab and pilot scale facilities using novel conversation pathways to create drop-in aviation fuels from CO2 and hydrogen. The scope also included an analysis of sustainable feedstocks for bio-based conversion pathways.

For synthetic aviation fuels the main barrier in upscaling and deployments remains the accessibility of low-cost renewable energy over the time necessary for a $1Bn Synthetic Aviation Fuel capital project. The basket of applicable technologies is largely ready, however without cheap renewable energy projects remain unbankable, or only capable of being developed to a relatively small scale with significant government support.


Government support is readily available in the EU and the US, however this support will only get technologies to demonstration scale. There remains a big jump from a shipping container sized unit which uses beverage grade CO2 to projects which have either integrated Direct Air Capture or are linked to CO2 captured from industrial emitters. Against a backdrop of increasing overall demand for renewable energy from all established sectors in the EU and the USA, additional demand from proposed Synthetic Aviation Fuel plants may require SAF plants to integrate significant renewables capacity into project schemes.


The availability of CO2 is a marginal consideration against sourcing cheap renewable energy. Although current CO2 production and distribution is ill-sized for SAF plants, developers are taking the reasonable assumption that future CO2 capture and storage projects, and increasing regulator expectations for post-combustion capture, will ensure that capacity exists in the timescales required.


WSS Energy has been active in sustainable fuels since 2016 when we started investigating the likely future trajectory of ethanol, ammonia and LNG for the shipping industry. We have subsequently delivered both research and advisory scopes for companies and public sector clients active in the shipping, aviation and road haulage industries.

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