BETO, NREL focus on 3 strategies for accelerating sustainable aviation fuel

June 13, 2022 |

In Colorado, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is advancing three key strategies to accelerate the production of climate friendly jet fuel: 1) Rapidly develop and scale biorefining processes for making drop-in, net-zero-emission SAF 2) Design resilient biorefineries that can flex with changing feedstock supplies and 3) Build strong, diverse coalitions.

Their strategy highlights include:

Strategy 1: Rapidly Develop and Scale Biorefining Processes for Making Drop-In, Net-Zero-Emission SAF

NREL scientists and analysts are inventing new production pathways to meet demand for drop-in SAFs:

·       Characterizing and taking stock of the nation’s potential 1 billion tons of biomass and waste resources— “fuel feedstocks” that can be sustainably harvested each year to make biofuel

·       Developing and demonstrating highly efficient, stable, and cost-effective refining processes for transforming those resources into highly polished fuel

·       Analyzing the economic and environmental impact of making large amounts of SAF at scale.

Strategy 2: Design Resilient Biorefineries That Can Flex With Changing Feedstock Supplies

With the laboratory’s cutting-edge pilot plants, scientists deeply analyze, trouble shoot, and tune SAF refining processes to sidestep complications by design.

NREL researchers demonstrate SAF processes in real time, revealing how to “bolt” them onto existing production facilities, making it easier for companies to integrate the technology. For example, a recent NREL study demonstrates how to co-process bio-oils with petroleum at existing refineries. Such an achievement offers an accelerated pathway for producing more climate friendly SAF without waiting for new facilities to come online.

Strategy 3: Build Strong, Diverse Coalitions

We need diverse coalitions of experts, companies, agencies, and perspectives to accelerate the deployment of SAF:

·       Cross-Lab Coalitions. Research consortia pool expertise from across the DOE lab system to give answers to the most pressing technical and analytical questions for achieving U.S. aviation goals. The Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium, for example, recruits more than 120 researchers from eight DOE national labs to accelerate the development of catalytic technologies essential for making SAF from biomass and waste.

·       Cross-Agency Coalitions. Through the SAF Grand Challenge, federal agencies share the resources and information needed to lower aviation emissions 20% by 2030. Energized by national lab analysis and technologies, this cross-agency investment promises to transform the aviation sector, while supporting the economy, boosting American agriculture and manufacturing, and addressing the climate crisis.

·       Cross-Industry Coalitions. Funding from the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office mobilizes fuel refiners and aviation companies to demonstrate SAF technologies at large scale. Pairing industry ambitions with DOE experts, these resources help build momentum and scale, helping lower production costs across the SAF supply chain.

 

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