It was a first for sustainable aviation fuel—a 100 percent SAF trans-Atlantic test flight from London to New York, and it has the ethanol industry smiling. Virgin Atlantic says its flight to New York’s JFK International Airport was powered by fuel from plant sugars and waste fats and emitted 70 percent less carbon than oil-based jet fuel.
Renewable Fuels Association head Geoff Cooper says it was a milestone for the ethanol industry. Cooper says, “That trans-Atlantic flight is a big deal for the industry. It is a major milestone. This is the first time we’ve seen that sort of flight powered by 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel.”
And while some in the media consider the Virgin Atlantic SAF flight a ‘stunt’ since standard jet engines aren’t designed for pure SAF, Cooper strongly disagrees.
He says, “Well, it isn’t just a stunt. This is something we’re going to see become commonplace in the years ahead. We are probably several years away from seeing SAF used on a broad basis, especially at a hundred percent level blend. But most sustainable aviation fuel being produced today is chemically identical to the petroleum-based jet fuel that it’s replacing.”
Meantime, SAF is considered a “drop-in” fuel that can extend standard jet fuel. Cooper says. “So, you can blend it in with kerosene-based jet fuel. Again, typically, the level we see most commonly is 50 percent. But obviously, this project has demonstrated you can go all the way to one hundred percent.”
Separately, the ethanol industry is hailing Iowa’s filing a motion for summary judgment to force EPA to finalize its rule, already more than a year late, to allow Iowa and six other Midwestern states to sell E15 year-round.