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UAE sets sustainable aviation fuel targets

An Emirates Airlines Boeing 777-300ER takes on sustainable aviation fuel at Dubai airport Reuters/Rula Rouhana
An Emirates Airlines Boeing 777-300ER takes on sustainable aviation fuel at Dubai airport
  • 1% must be SAF by 2031
  • $3.3trn to meet aviation goal
  • Refinery to be built in UAE

The UAE is aiming to have sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) account for at least 1 percent of the total fuel supplied at airports in the Gulf state by 2031, according to a new government ruling.

The Guideline on Sustainable Aviation Fuel says the country hopes to produce 700 million litres annually by 2030, according to Ahmed Al Kaabi, assistant under-secretary for the electricity, water and future energy sector at the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. 

It will also form the basis of a national regulatory framework for SAF.

Latest statistics from the International Air Transport Association (Iata) reveal that over 600 million litres of SAF was produced this year worldwide, double the volumes of 2022, although it represented only 3 percent of all renewable fuels produced.

In 2024, SAF production is expected to treble to almost 1.9 million litres, accounting for 0.53 percent of aviation’s fuel need, and 6 percent of renewable fuel capacity.

Iata estimates that this figure must rise to 30 billion litres by 2030 and 450 billion litres by 2050 to make net zero targets achievable for airlines.

SAF can reduce the CO2 emissions of flying by up to 80 percent, compared with traditional jet fuel.

It can be produced from waste fats, oil, green and municipal waste, and non-food crops. It can also be synthesised using carbon capture processes.

Lootah Biofuels in Dubai, which produces biofuels from used cooking oil, on Saturday signed a deal with FatHopes Energy of Malaysia, which produces SAF from fats, oils and grease for the Mena and Southeast Asia regions.

The agreement includes setting up a feedstock aggregation storage terminal in Malaysia and a refinery in the UAE.

The worldwide aviation sector, which currently accounts for roughly 3 percent of the global carbon footprint, is aiming to be climate neutral by 2050. The industry estimates it will take between $1.45 trillion and $3.2 trillion for SAF capital development to achieve its net zero emissions goal.

Last month an Emirates A380 completed a 45-minute test flight with one of the aircraft’s four engines 100 percent powered by SAF. Three days earlier, a Gulfstream G600 business jet undertook the world’s first transatlantic flight powered 100 percent by SAF, landing in southeast England after a seven-hour journey from Savannah, Georgia.

Brazilian biofuel company Atvos, which counts Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala as a shareholder, is confident it can help power the switch to SAF.

Atvos produces sugarcane ethanol, very high polarity sugar, plus sustainable electricity using sugarcane biomass.

The company plans to invest over R$8 billion ($1.6 billion) over the next three years to produce net-zero ethanol, biomethane, second-generation ethanol and SAF from sugarcane.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai, Bruno Serapião, CEO of Atvos, told AGBI the company has a total installed production capacity of 32 million cubic metres of ethanol annually, but insisted there was scope in the country to increase it tenfold.

“Our primary feedstock will be sugarcane ethanol, with the potential inclusion of corn ethanol,” Serapião said.

“Our overarching objective is to develop a dependable fuel at utility scale, delivering a substantial impact in mitigating the carbon footprint of the aviation industry.”

In October Mubadala, through the investment fund FIP MC Green, acquired the 6.85 percent stake owned by Grupo Novonor, formerly known as Odebrecht, in the holding company that controls Atvos.

Mubadala already had a direct stake of 31.5 percent in Atvos.

On Tuesday it was announced that LanzaTech Global, a carbon recycling company turning waste carbon into raw materials, and Abu Dhabi Waste Management Company (Tadweer), are to conduct a feasibility study into producing SAF from municipal and commercial solid waste.

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