Australia has the feedstock to make billions of litres of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2025, according to a new roadmap released by the CSIRO.
CSIRO’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel Roadmap, developed in concert with Boeing, asserts that Australia has a “moment-in-time opportunity” to develop its own SAF industry, with domestic demand for jet fuel expected to surge 75 per cent by 2050.
According to the roadmap’s author, CSIRO senior manager Max Temminghoff, Australia is in a good position to develop a domestic SAF industry, but needs to address key challenges such as feedstock availability, supply chain issues, and international standards and regulations.
“By actively working to liberate feedstocks, the roadmap estimates that Australia is currently sitting on enough resources to produce almost 5 billion litres of SAF by 2025. This could supply nearly 60 per cent of jet fuel demand projected for that year,” he said.
“That’s enough fuel to power 640,000 Melbourne to Sydney return flights on a Boeing 737. Through a combination of feedstocks and mature technologies, a large and growing portion of Australia’s jet fuel demand can be met with local materials such as agricultural waste and residues.”
These materials, which include sugarcane, sawmill residues, and municipal solid waste, can be turned into SAF through processes including Alcohol-to-Jet and Fischer-Tropsch, the latter of which is currently being conducted at the CSIRO’s Perth lab.
Roadmap co-author Heidi Hauf, Boeing’s regional sustainability lead APAC, said local SAF will aid decarbonisation and energy security, and said the Australian Defence Force could also assist in kickstarting the industry.
“Currently, Australia imports 90 per cent of its liquid fuel, including jet fuel, through long supply chains exposed to geopolitical and climate change risks, and delays associated with quality issues, placing the country in a vulnerable position when it comes to jet fuel security,” Hauf said.
“With alternative technologies such as battery and fuel-cell powered planes still limited in long haul capabilities and the increasing competition for carbon offsets, SAF offers the largest potential for reduced aviation emissions in the near-term.”
Both government and industry have already expressed interest in building an Australian SAF industry; the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is issuing $30 million in grants across the supply chain.
Qantas, which is partnering with Airbus on a facility in Queensland, told Australian Aviation it “strongly endorses” the roadmap, with Chief Sustainability Officer Andrew Parker saying it highlights the potential for developing SAF in Australia.
“The mapping of Australia’s feedstock capability is a critical step towards establishing a domestic SAF industry, and highlights the opportunity that exists right across the country,” he said.
“It’s going to take airlines, aircraft manufacturers and industry working together to accelerate the development of a domestic industry.”
The Flying Kangaroo has previously called for a SAF blending mandate similar to those in jurisdictions such as the UK, USA, Europe and Japan.