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Nine SAF projects scoop up £53m from Advanced Fuels Fund

Transport Secretary claims UK is on way to becoming sustainable aviation fuel 'superpower'

Nine UK-based projects that aim to boost supplies of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) have won a share of £53m from the government's Advanced Fuels Fund. The winning projects include a demonstration plant for converting sawmill and forestry waste into low-carbon fuel and a power-to-liquid facility that would convert CO2 and green hydrogen into zero-emission fuels.

Announcing the funding awards yesterday, the government said the winning projects would help create 10,000 green jobs by 2035 and boost the economy by around £1.8bn each year. Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the government's investment was helping to establish the UK as a "superpower" in the fledgling SAF industry. "The investment we're announcing today demonstrates our confidence in the UK's SAF industry - creating jobs, encouraging overseas investment and levelling up communities across the whole country," he said. "Thanks to this government's backing, the UK is quickly becoming a SAF superpower - ensuring people can continue to travel how they want in a way that's fit for the future." The Advanced Fuels Fund invests in early-stage production plants that aim to produce fuels that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flights when blended into the jet fuel mix. These so-called sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) can made using a variety of technologies and feedstocks, including household, municipal, and forestry waste, captured CO2, and green hydrogen. The UK has set a goal for 10 per cent of all aviation fuel produced in the UK to be made from sustainable feedstocks by 2030.

Advocates for SAFs argue the drop-in fuel is the best near-term solution for decarbonising the aviation sector while zero emission aircraft remain in their development phase. The technology promises to slash aviation emissions with some fuels promising to cut emissions by between 50 and 80 per cent compared to conventional jet fuels. But critics have argued that aviation companies' aggressive assumptions on the uptake of SAF fail to adequately account for the higher cost of SAF fuels and the difficulty of sourcing sufficient sustainable feedstocks to meet rising demand. There are also widespread concerns about the impact of increased demand for biofuels on land use and deforestation. The government announced the funding round as it prepares for the launch of the world's first transatlantic flight on 100 per cent SAF fuel later this month.

The government said it had provided £1m to the scheme, which will see a Virgin Atlantic flight powered entirely with greener fuels travel from London to New York on 28 November. The government has also confirmed it had provided £700,000 in funding to a SAF Clearing House at the University of Sheffield which will coordinate the testing and approval of new SAFs.

It said the Clearing House would make the UK a more attractive place to invest in new SAF production capacity and ensure that new SAFs meet internationally recognised safety and technical standards.

Mohamed Pourkashanian, head of the University of Sheffield's energy institute, said the SAF Clearing House was a "significant and much-needed addition to the UK's decarbonisation landscape" and would help reduce barriers to SAF delivery.

The announcements come as Alfanar Energy announced it had taken a step forward with its plans to build a SAF plant on Teesside, after the project received more than £8.5m in funding from the Advanced Fuels Fund.

The Riyadh-headquartered industrial conglomerate claims its proposed scheme in Stockton-on-Tees is the largest and most advanced green fuel facility in Europe. The scheme, which has now benefited from two rounds of AFF funding and the government's Green Fuels, Green Skies competition, is aiming to convert non-recyclable waste and waste biomass into aviation fuel.

The company said that it had now begun "formal engagement" processes around the scheme, which as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project requires consent from the Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero through a development consent order.

It said it had already contacted local stakeholders and community groups to introduce the project before any formal plans have taken shape.

"Passenger numbers are set to quadruple by 2050 and the clock is ticking on delivering the government's policy on Jet Zero [the UK's 2022 aviation decarbonisation strategy]," said Noaman Al Adhami, country head of Alfanar. "It is crucial that we accelerate the production of SAF to meet growing demand as the UK looks to increase its energy security and rise to the challenge of decarbonising the aviation industry at the same time."

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