Boarding the next flight to sustainability

In our last post, we discussed the benefits and challenges of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which is already being used at some major U.S. airports.

In 2021, the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan set a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector by 2050. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), current long-term sustainable energy goals include achieving 3 billion gallons per year of domestic SAF production, with a minimum 50% reduction in life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) compared to conventional fuel by 2030 and 100% of SAF use, or 35 billion gallons of annual production, by 2050. According to a recent report by Exactitude Consultancy, the SAF market will be worth almost $10 billion by 2029.

To meet these ambitious goals, the DOE is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies to encourage the production of SAF on a commercial scale. The SAF Grand Challenge Energy Roadmap was issued in September 2022 through the combined efforts of these agencies. 

How can airports participate in SAF infrastructure development?

Airports may consider installing blending facilities, where unblended SAF can be delivered, stored and blended, or upgrading facilities to support SAF production, delivery and storage. According to the DOE, pure Jet A and pure SAF should be stored in separate tanks, and a third tank should be used for the combined, usable new fuel. To meet testing requirements, the new SAF/Jet A blend must not contain more than 50% pure SAF. Other SAFE infrastructure options include the development of fuel farms, depending on an airport’s facilities.

According to Aviation International News, the Quebec-based SAF+ Consortium will partner with Airbus Canada and Pratt & Whitney Canada for SAF research, which will entail testing blends of up to 100% SAF on an Airbus A220 and exploring the feasibility of establishing power-to-liquid e-SAF production facilities in Quebec.

To assist the aviation sector in funding local SAF initiatives, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has provided two grant programs. The Fueling Aviation’s Sustainable Transition through Sustainable Aviation Fuels (FAST-SAF) and the Fueling Aviation’s Sustainable Transition through Low-Emission Aviation Technology (FAST-TECH) programs offer funding to support infrastructure and transportation systems that connect SAF feedstock producers, SAF refiners and aviation end users.

Here is a summary of the available FAA funding: 

  • $244.5 million for projects relating to transportation, blending and storage of SAF (FAST-SAF funding available)
  • $46.5 million for projects to develop, demonstrate or apply low-emissions aviation technologies (FAST-TECH funding available)
    • One Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) will be issued to cover these programs
  • cost-sharing requirements:
    • 75% federal share for total proposed costs for larger-hub airports
    • 90% federal share for small and nonhub airports
  • eligible participants for FAST-SAFE or FAST-TECH include:
    • state or local governments, other than airports
    • airport sponsors
    • individuals or businesses engaged in the production, transportation, blending or storage of SAF
    • individuals or businesses engaged in the development, demonstration or application of low-emission aviation technologies
  • program goal: 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030 accomplished through:
    • the installation of blending facilities
    • upgrades to facilities to support SAF production

Next steps

The FAA intends to issue a NOFO in the spring or summer 2023 and award the first round of grants by late 2023 or early 2024. The initial round of grants is intended to expend up to half of the total funding for the FAST-SAF program and all the funding for the FAST-TECH program, so airports should begin planning and research to best position themselves for needed projects.

For more information on SAF or grant funding, contact Eric Menger at