in Aerospace

UK SAF industry goes from forest waste to new heights with £53m boost

Posted 17 November 2023

Passengers are another step closer to flying without CO2 emissions thanks to £53 million of Government funding announced today.

Above: Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Courtesy Virgin Group

From utilising forest waste to transforming power to liquid fuel, nine pioneering projects helping to create a brighter, cleaner future have been awarded a share of £53 million in the latest round of the Department for Transport’s Advanced Fuels Fund.

The full £135 million Advanced Fuels Fund pot is designed to help companies convert waste materials and by-products – such as household waste like cooking oil and industrial gases – into fuels. It can also help achieve greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. 

Winning projects from both rounds – spanning the length and breadth of the country from the Orkney Islands to the North of England and South Wales – will help create up to 10,000 green jobs by 2035 and boost the economy by around £1.8 billion every year.

This round’s winning projects include a demo plant converting sawmill and forestry waste and a commercial plant using power-to-liquid technology to convert CO2 and green hydrogen into plane fuel. Together, both projects could create over 70,000 tonnes of SAF a year.

As a result, the UK could soon have the capabilities to produce up to 810,000 tonnes of SAF – enough to fly around the equator of Earth an estimated 3,108 times.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The investment we’re announcing today demonstrates our confidence in the UK’s SAF industry - creating jobs, encouraging overseas investment and levelling up communities across the whole country.

“Thanks to this Government’s backing, the UK is quickly becoming a SAF superpower – ensuring people can continue to travel how they want, in a way that’s fit for the future.”

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: “Delivering a UK SAF industry this decade is a must if we are to drive down emissions from aviation, meet our 10% SAF mandate and reduce costs for consumers. We welcome this latest funding announcement, which will support a number of innovative projects across all parts of the UK.

“The pieces of the puzzle are coming together but more work is needed, in particular to deliver the initial plants under construction by 2025, whilst keeping overall transition costs as low as possible for passengers, so air travel can continue to be enjoyed by all in the decades to come.”  

With the upcoming SAF mandate requiring at least 10% of jet fuel come from sustainable feedstocks by 2030, the Advanced Fuel Fund is helping deliver that target. This will see the industry save up to 2.7 million tonnes of CO2e annually - equal to taking 1,296,468 petrol cars off the road in a year.

Amy Hebert, CEO of Arcadia eFuels, who have been awarded £12.3 million through the AFF, said: “We applaud the UK and Department for Transport for recognising the need to support SAF production in order to expedite the decarbonisation of aviation.

“Grant programmes like this, combined with other incentives, will help build commercial scale facilities for the production of SAF.”  

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Here on Teesside, we are leading the way in sustainable aviation fuel and this announcement just goes to show it with 75% of this fund going to local projects. We are committed to making aviation sustainable to secure the future of Teesside Airport and by getting ahead of the curve we can make sure we are best placed to lead the transition to SAF.

“These fantastic projects will create local jobs for local people and make our airport a key player in the industry. Let there be no mistake about it - we get things done and we get there first.”

As the UK SAF industry goes from strength to strength, it’s important it also has the capabilities to test the fuel being made, making the transition from the labs to the sky faster and easier than before.

That is why a SAF Clearing House has been launched at the University of Sheffield, transforming the sector and helping to create jobs and grow the economy.

Thanks to £700,000 Government funding – with another £5.35 million earmarked to support costs associated with fuel testing – this central hub will coordinate the testing and approval of new SAF, removing barriers for overseas investment and supporting the growth of SAF expertise in the UK.

Not only will this make the UK an attractive place to invest but it will also deliver SAF to internationally recognised safety and technical standards and help meet crucial SAF mandate targets.

Bringing more investment, production, and jobs ahead of its European counterparts, the Clearing House is making clean flying a global reality, with the UK placed firmly at the centre.

Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Head of the Energy Institute at the University of Sheffield, said: "We're thrilled to be able to announce the selection of the Energy Institute at the University of Sheffield as the home of the UK SAF Clearing House. This significant and much-needed addition to the UK's decarbonisation landscape will help to reduce barriers to SAF delivery and will take a vital step on the journey to make SAFs a viable solution for the future of aviation.” 

Today’s announcements are a milestone marker ahead of the world’s first transatlantic flight using 100% SAF on 28th November – backed by up to £1 million in Government investment –  when Virgin Atlantic’s flagship Boeing 787s, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, takes off from London Heathrow and makes the journey to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport. With less than two weeks to go, the flight will usher in a new normal for international travel - making guilt-free flying a reality.





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