News — 11.03.22

Aviation has been a target for green campaigners for many years. While private aviation contributes only 0.04% of global man-made carbon emissions, it has a role to play in protecting the planet and sustainability has become a strong theme in the industry, with sustainable aviation fuel the biggest player.

Sustainability comes into every area of business aviation. It is about energy-efficient aircraft being housed in environmentally responsible hangars. It encompasses the use of low emission ground handling equipment and facilities. It means using renewable, reusable and recycled products in flight operations, and focusing on meeting the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Each of these actions plays a small but important role in further reducing business aviation’s carbon footprint, but the single greatest contributor, and the one that is in the hands of the owners and users of private jets, is the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The use SAF in business aircraft can reduce lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel.


Business aviation was an early advocate for SAF, first setting emissions mitigation goals back in 2009. Through industry organisations, business aviation has pledged to cut carbon emissions in half and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, while continuing to increase fuel efficiency by 2% every year between 2020 and 2030.

So strides are being made. But what exactly is SAF, how is it made, and how does it affect the performance of high end jets? SAF is a clean substitute for fossil jet fuels. The chemical and physical characteristics of SAF are almost identical to those of conventional jet fuel, but rather than being refined from petroleum, SAF is produced from sustainable resources such as waste oils from a biological origin, agricultural residues, or non-fossil CO2. Furthermore, SAF contains fewer impurities (such as sulphur), which enables an even greater reduction in sulphur dioxide and particulate matter emissions.


IATA states that to validly use the term ‘’sustainable’’ these fuels must meet sustainability criteria such as lifecycle carbon emissions reduction, limited fresh-water requirements, no competition with needed food production (like first-generation biofuels) and no deforestation. The emissions created in the production of SAF, such as from the equipment needed to grow the crop, transport the raw goods, refine the fuel, etc are accounted for in the 80% emissions reduction figure.

Air BP is a leading supplier of SAF around the world, with availability at more than 20 locations across three continents. Andreea Moyes, Air bp’s global aviation sustainability director, explained: “It’s produced from sustainable feedstocks and is very similar in its chemistry to traditional fossil jet fuel. Some typical feedstocks used are cooking oil and other non-palm waste oils from animals or plants; solid waste from homes and businesses, such as packaging, paper, textiles, and food scraps that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration. Other potential sources include forestry waste, such as waste wood, and energy crops, including fast-growing plants and algae. Air bp’s SAF is currently made from used cooking oil and animal waste fat.”

Sustainability: SAF is produced from sustainable resources such as waste oils from a biological origin, agricultural residues, or non-fossil CO2.


The cost of sustainability: SAF costs between two and five times the price of conventional jet fuel.

SAF is referred to as a ‘drop-in fuel’, meaning that the basic SAF can be blended at up to 50% with traditional jet fuel to create a lower carbon footprint fuel that can be used without the need for any change in the fuelling infrastructure or equipment. It requires no adjustment in the aircraft using the fuel. All quality tests are completed as per a traditional jet fuel. This blend is then re-certified as Jet A or Jet A-1.

According to SAF supplier SkyNRG, studies have shown that sustainable aviation fuel has a higher energy density than conventional jet fuel. On top of that, SAF yields an improved fuel efficiency (1.5% – 3%), resulting in higher payload conditions or extended range.

Performance fuel

This 50% blend can safely be used in any aircraft using the current specification of traditional jet fuel, and it does not affect the performance of the aircraft, as leading business aviation OEM Gulfstream can attest. Since 2016, Gulfstream has purchased more than 1.4 million gallons of SAF and flown more than 1.5 million nautical miles on the blended fuel and has long been a leader in the use of sustainable aviation fuel. It was the first company to earn the National Aeronautic Association’s Sustainable Wings certification, which recognises speed records set using SAF, for a record-setting flight from Savannah, GA to San Francisco, CA and back in a G500 fuelled with SAF.

In November 2021, Gulfstream became the first business aircraft manufacturer to sign the World Economic Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow 2030 Ambition Statement. Developed by the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition Steering Committee, the ambition statement is a declaration of intent to accelerate the supply and use of SAF technologies to reach 10% of global jet aviation fuel supply by 2030.

Mark Burns, President of Gulfstream said: “The Clean Skies for Tomorrow 2030 Ambition Statement is a call to action to grow the supply and use of SAF. We are committed to continuing to use and promote SAF.”


Community benefits

It is not just the environment that will benefit from this move away from traditional fossil fuels. IATA has detailed the economic and social benefits that can arise from the increased use of SAF, particularly in parts of the world that have large areas of marginal or unviable land for food crops, but that are suitable for growing SAF crops, or which have other sources of feedstock such as municipal waste.

Making the conscious choice

So, the use of SAF in business aviation is simple and positive more towards sustainability, but there is a catch. The price of alternative fuels is substantially higher, with costs ranging between two and five times the price of conventional jet fuel, and as of yet the blended fuel is limited in availability. This is due to the limited availability of sustainable feedstocks and the high cost of production of SAF. However, as the global demand rises, production will scale up to meet that demand, new technologies will be developed and employed, new facilities for processing will be completed, greater investments will be made and the entire supply chain will become more efficient, making it less costly for customers.


Moyes detailed: “The key to greater acceptance and deployment of SAF is a reduction in costs. Over the long term, that will require investment in advanced technologies to process feedstocks more efficiently at a greater scale and investment in the development of sustainable and scalable feedstock options. However, in the short-term, interim support from governments and other stakeholders through policy incentives is needed. This support needs to be part of a long-term framework to give investors the confidence to make the big investments required to grow supply.”

The major suppliers of aviation fuel are continuing to develop SAF from a variety of sources, including food waste, algae, and converting carbon dioxide to fuel,  and governments have put forward long-term plans for zero emissions in aviation that include the use of SAF. The Biden-Harris administration has a stated aim for net-zero aviation emissions by 2050, with action to support increased SAF production by 2030. The EU aims to increase the amount of SAF blended by 10% in 2030 and 50% in 2040. So, while we can all look forward to greater availability of SAF and lower costs in the future, for now, it is about making the right decision for the planet.