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Everything you need to know about sustainable aviation fuel

By now, you will probably realize that sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plays a key role in our determination to make travel more sustainable. But what do we mean by this, exactly? How is it used and what role will it play in the future? Here we answer frequently asked questions about sustainable aviation fuel.

What is SAF?
Camelina which is used when producing biofuel. Photo: Shutterstock.Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), such as 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 SAF 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.

Is SAF 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 SAF?
At the moment, biofuel is delivered to SAS’s main airports at Stockholm and Oslo. 

What is SAS doing in terms of sustainable aviation fuel?Biofuel and fossil fuel can be used together. The biofuel SAS sources, is mixed with fossil fuel in the hydrant, the large fuel supply system used to refuel aircraft at airports.

Biofuel can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% throughout their lifecycle. Photo: ShutterstockWhy does SAS use sustainable aviation fuel? SAS sees biofuel as a key solution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the medium to long-term. Biofuel can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent over its entire lifecycle compared to conventional jet fuels.

What does the future look like for SAS now? There is still only very limited access to biofuel today. However, with the major investments in the development of biofuels by energy companies and their customers all round the world, e.g. the collaboration between SAS and Swedish energy company Preem, plus Vattenfall/Shell and Lanzatech, to jointly assure the production of sustainable aviation fuels, the biofuel market is set to expand significantly. Many countries have introduced regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which means industries, including the aviation sector, will be forced to use alternatives to fossil fuels to reduce their climate impacting carbon dioxide emissions. This too, is driving expansion on the fuel market and as demand grows, production should also increase.

Why doesn’t everyone use SAF? 
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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