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Aviation

Everything you need to know about biofuel

By now, you probably know that biofuel plays a key role in the effort to make travel more sustainable. But what is it exactly? How is it used and what role is it going to play in the near future? Here are the answers to the most common questions people have about biofuel.

What is biofuel?
Camelina which is used when producing biofuel. Photo: Shutterstock.Biofuel is a sustainable jet fuel based on sustainable oil crops or biomass, including camelina, jathropha, algae, animal oils, fats and various types of coal-based sources such as waste from industry, households, agriculture, forestry and paper mills.

What kind of biofuel does SAS use?
SAS uses Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) biofuel. This is a renewable diesel fuel that can be produced from a wide array of vegetable oils and fats. SAS has strict criteria when it comes to biofuels. They include criteria such as; the biofuels SAS use should be produced by used raw materials that require as small land area as possible and which does not affect the general availability of crops used in food production, or the use of potable water, and that has a positive impact on the biodiversity. SAS do not accept waste from palm oil production as a raw material.

Are biofuels safe?
The biofuels certified for use in commercial aviation are regulated under extremely rigid specifications. The biofuels are a copy of their fossil fuel alternatives and certified in multiple standards to ensure full technical compliance for safe and reliable flight operations. Biofuels have been proven to be as safe and at least as efficient as conventional jet fuel.

How does SAS get the biofuel?
At the moment, biofuel is delivered to SAS’s main airports at Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. 

What does SAS do with the biofuel? 
Unlike leaded or unleaded petrol used in cars, biofuel and fossil fuel can be used together. The biofuel SAS receives is mixed in with fossil fuel in the hydrant, the big fuelling system that is used to fuel the airline’s aircraft.

Biofuel can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% throughout their lifecycle. Photo: ShutterstockWhy does SAS use biofuel?
SAS consider biofuels to be a key mid to long-term solution to reduce CO2 emissions. Biofuel can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% throughout their lifecycle, compared to conventional jet fuel.

What is the future for biofuels?
Today, the supply of biofuel is still very limited. But with serious investment into its development by major energy companies and their customers around the world, such as the partnership between SAS and Swedish energy company Preem to jointly ensure the production of biofuel, the biofuel market is set to significantly expand. More and more regulatory frameworks by various countries designed to cut carbon emissions also means that industries, including aviation, will legally have to start using alternatives to fossil fuels. This is also driving the expansion of the biofuel market and with increasing demand, production should increase.

Why doesn’t everyone use biofuel? 
Although biofuels have existed for a very long time, gasoline and diesel production has been carried out on such a scale that the biofuel market has never been able to compete. The global supply of biofuel is therefore very small in comparison with regular fuels and biofuel is consequently much more expensive. With little political incentive, until recently, to use alternative fuels. there has not really therefore been many motivating forces for industries to switch to biofuels. 

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