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Discussing the Growth of Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Sustainable aviation fuel is shaping up to be a big opportunity for renewable fuel.

Tad Hepner, vice president of strategy and innovation for the Renewable Fuels Association, talks about SAF. He says, “Sustainable aviation fuels are a category of renewable fuel and can be from fats, oils, and greases. There are also pathways that are available for the upgrading of alcohol to aviation fuel as well. So, it’s a category of jet fuel – so, all kinds, anything that uses Jet A (fuel) – airliners, military aircraft, anything that uses a Jet A compatible turbine engine.”

The U.S. is already producing some sustainable aviation fuel, but there’s a need for more infrastructure in place before the industry can grow.

Hepner says, “There’s between 16 and 18 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel produced annually. That’s a very small number. We are in the process of ramping up those pathways to produce more sustainable aviation fuel. It’s going to be a process, but I think with the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, it’s given an opportunity for renewable fuels to play more of a part in the aviation transport sector.”

Corn and soybean farmers are going to see a lot of opportunity as the sustainable aviation fuel industry continues growing. Hepner says, “We’re going to see a little bit of increased production as far as ethanol if we’re talking about the alcohol to jet space. We’re going to see increased ethanol production and maybe a larger percentage of that may go towards sustainable aviation fuel production. With hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles playing a somewhat larger part in the future of over-the-road transportation, we think a certain amount of the ethanol, or the alcohol that’s used to produce ethanol fuels, is going to maybe pivot out a little bit into the civil aviation space.”

If demand increases for feedstock farmers produce, it can mean higher prices in the future.

Hepner adds, “I think there’s an opportunity for higher prices for farmers in the future. We’ve seen advances in agronomics to produce more crops on the same acre of land. But at the same time, we increase demand for these types of products, along with incentive structures, we’re going to see some opportunity for producers to take advantage of some of that as well.”

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