Ethanol volumes currently used in road transport could be shifted to aviation as car electrification advances and thus help speed up the expansion of biojet fuel production, a team of US researchers have suggested. 

To reach net zero emissions by 2050, it is imperative to significantly increase the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and electricity-based fuels, especially during the 2030s. Targeting 40 million–50 million tonnes of SAF by 2030 is key for this scale-up, says the new paper and adds that as sustainable biomass resources are limited, it is necessary to prioritise their use in sectors like aviation.

Ethanol can help. By employing the alcohol-to-jet process and by also incentivising hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) plants to decrease diesel production in favour of jet fuel, it is possible to access an extra SAF supply of 14 million–22 million tonnes by 2030. This would be equal to 25%–50% of the anticipated SAF demand.

The paper is called “Forging a sustainable sky: Unveiling the pillars of aviation e-fuel production for carbon emission circularity” and was published in March in iScience by a team of University of California researchers.