Plant-based jet fuel could reduce carbon emissions by nearly 70%

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Currently, the global aviation industry produces about 2-3% of all human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and is responsible for 3.5% of global warming. In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation sector, researchers around the world are increasingly looking for sustainable alternatives to traditional aircraft fuel.

One of the latest alternatives comes from researchers at the University of Georgia. The team developed sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from a type of mustard that can replace petroleum-based aviation fuel and reduce carbon emissions by up to 68%.

The team, led by University of Georgia scientist Puneet Dwivedi, estimated the break-even price and lifecycle carbon emissions of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) derived from oil obtained from Brassica Carinata, an inedible oilseed crop.

The latest growing number of SAF studies aim to provide a less demanding alternative to aviation fuel. For example, Rolls Royce performed its first tests of 100% sustainable aviation fuel in a business jet engine earlier this year. Then there are other alternatives such as liquid hydrogen and ammonia fuel; researchers have also developed technology to convert plastic waste into jet fuel ingredients.

A flowering field of Carinata. Credit: Bill Anderson

The new aviation fuel study comes after US President Joe Biden proposed a sustainable fuel tax credit as part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, which brings together federal agencies to increase SAF production at nationwide. With his new proposal, Biden has set a target of a 20% reduction in aviation emissions by 2030 and achieving a fully zero carbon aviation sector by 2050. Credit to The proposed tax requires a 50% reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions, which the University of Georgia’s Aviation Fuel exceeds.

In addition, the production price of Carinata-based SAF ranges from $ 0.12 per liter at the low end to $ 1.28 per liter, which is lower than petroleum-based aviation fuel by 0.50. $ per liter when current economic incentives are included in the analysis. Carinata can also be grown out of season, which means that it doesn’t trigger feeding issues over fuel. Additionally, according to Puneet Dwivedi, growing Carinata offers all the benefits of cover crops related to water quality, soil health, biodiversity and pollination. His current research focuses on modeling the economic and environmental feasibility of the production and consumption of Carinata-based FAS in Georgia, Alabama and Florida from a supply chain perspective.

“Our results would be particularly relevant for the state of Georgia, which is the sixth largest consumer of conventional aviation fuel in the country, is home to the busiest airport in the world and is home to Delta, a leading global airline, ” Dwivedi noted. “I look forward to continuing more research to provide a sustainable alternative to our current model of air travel. Carinata has the potential to be a win-win situation for our rural areas, the aviation industry and, most importantly, climate change. “


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