How can the refining industry supply the aviation industry’s growing demand for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)? What are the most efficient pathways?

First published in PTQ Q1 2023

Yvon Bernard, Renewables Product Line Business Development Manager, Axens

Today, governmental authorities, refining companies, and the aviation industry are collectively exploring different technology pathways to substitute fossil-based jet fuels with SAF. A single solution will not fulfil future SAF demand. Rather, a combination of different technologies for every available feedstock around the world is required.

Among the seven pathways currently certified under the ASTM D-7566 specification for synthetic kerosene to be blended into Jet A1 pool, Axens provides mature technology for three main pathways (HEFA-SPK, FT-SPK, ATJSPK) via the following solutions:

  • Vegan, the hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFASPK) pathway. This is a flexible solution to produce renewable diesel and SAF through the hydrotreatment of a wide range of lipids (renewable vegetable oils and animal fats).
  • Gasel, the Fischer-Tropsch (FT-SPK) pathway, converts synthesis gas (H₂+CO) from various origins into a flexible slate of lower carbon fuels, including SAF. To provide renewable synthetic gases from biomass, Axens developed BioTfueL, which unlocks SAF and advanced biofuels production from energy crops and agricultural and forestry residues via a thermochemical and Fischer-Tropsch pathway.
  • Jetanol, the ethanol-to-jet pathway (ATJ-SPK), is the process by which low-carbon ethanol is converted to SAF via different steps: dehydration, oligomerization, hydrogenation, and fractionation. Axens also provides a solution combining Futurol and Jetanol to produce renewable fuels. Futurol uses enzymatic conversion to produce advanced ethanol (2G) from lignocellulosic biomass (energy crops, agricultural and forestry residues).

The common threads running through these technologies are flexibility, reliability, and the realization of decades of technology development, demonstrating that Axens is ready to meet the challenges of scaling up SAF capacity in the coming years to provide low-carbon fuels into the market.