On September 23, 2022, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) released its 128-page Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge Roadmap (SAF Roadmap), a comprehensive plan that outlines a government-wide strategy for scaling up new technologies to produce sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) across the US airline industry.
The SAF Roadmap lays out six action areas (with related specific work streams) spanning all activities with the potential to impact the SAF Grand Challenge objectives of (1) expanding SAF supply and end use, (2) reducing the cost of SAF, and (3) enhancing the sustainability of SAF. The six action areas are:
- Feedstock Innovation – “lays out R&D [research and development] work streams facilitating sustainable feedstock supply system innovations across the range of SAF-relevant feedstocks, as well as enabling supply chain optimization to reduce cost, technology uncertainty, and risk; increase yield and sustainability; and optimize SAF precursors (e.g., ethanol and isobutanol).”
- Conversion Technology Innovation – “covers R&D through pilot scale from the receipt of biomass at the refinery gate through finished fuel to achieve technology improvements and carbon intensity reductions. The effort includes processes that are already commercialized, such as the hydro-processed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) pathway, or nearing commercialization (e.g., the alcohol-to-jet [ATJ] pathway), and addresses work on processes that will be ready for commercialization beyond 2030 but need to be developed now.”
- Building Supply Chains – “encompasses feedstock production, collection, and distribution to SAF production facilities; conversion of feedstock to fuel; and transport of finished fuel to the infrastructure required to fuel aircraft. Because current fuel certifications require SAF to be blended with conventional fuels, the SAF supply chain also requires coordination with conventional jet fuel industries.”
- Policy and Valuation Analysis – aims “to provide data, tools, and analysis to support policy decisions and maximize social, economic, and environmental value of SAF. Work streams in this action area will evaluate the impact of existing and new policies to address key barriers that prevent production and use of SAF.”
- Enabling End Use – “focuses on RDD&D [research, development, demonstration, and deployment] activities to facilitate the end use of SAF by civilian and military users. The action area focuses on addressing critical barriers and requirements for safe and cost-effective use of SAF via standards development and critical R&D and analysis. The work streams include SAF qualification, reaching 100% drop-in SAF, fuel performance evaluation, and SAF integration with existing fuel distribution infrastructure. Efforts spanning these key areas will address critical barriers to SAF deployment.”
- Communicating Progress and Building Support – focuses on “communication that transparently demonstrates the environmental, climate, and economic benefits of SAF is vital to building public trust and increasing support.”