China establishes first sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) Center

The SAF center will spearhead policy development and set standards for SAF products and quality control, as noted by two industry executives familiar with the launch.

China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) has established the country’s first technical center for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in Chengdu, according to the aviation regulator’s news channel on Tuesday. The center will spearhead policy development and set standards for SAF products and quality control, as noted by two industry executives familiar with the launch.

China, the world’s second-largest aviation market, accounting for about 11 percent of global jet fuel consumption, is anticipated to reveal its 2030 SAF policy this year. This policy is expected to drive billions in investments in the near future.

Although China has conducted limited test flights, it currently does not produce SAF commercially for domestic use.

Over $1 billion is being invested by biofuel companies to build the country’s first facilities that will convert waste cooking oil into aviation fuel for export, with plans to meet domestic demand once mandated by Beijing to reduce emissions.

As per reports, the CAAC is also developing a Chinese certification system for sustainable fuels. The new center in Chengdu is setting up testing facilities for new products. It is projected that China’s annual aviation fuel consumption could exceed 50 million metric tons by 2030. The intake of SAF could be 2.5 million tons every year.

SAF, produced from sustainably sourced waste and residues like used cooking oil and animal fats or from renewable hydrogen, presents a promising way to cut aviation emissions. Burning SAF can reduce CO2 emissions by around 80% compared to traditional jet fuel, according to data cited by Airbus.

Currently, China produces less than 100,000 tons of SAF, primarily at a plant operated by Bain Capital-backed EcoCeres, which began production in 2022 in the eastern region for export. As the world’s second-largest aviation market, China is expected to announce its 2030 SAF policy soon, potentially spurring billions of dollars in investments.

Companies such as Junheng Industry Group Biotech, Zhejiang Jiaao Enprotech, and Tianzhou New Energy plan to start up plants within the next 18 months to produce more than one million metric tons of SAF per year combined.

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