Exploring novel methods to produce sustainable aviation fuel
The aviation industry produces around 2.5% of all carbon emissions worldwide. With climate change now regarded as one of the biggest existential threats to humanity, the industry must end its use of fossil fuels and switch to sustainable alternatives. Although there are existing technologies that produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), these novel technologies can be costly and commercially unviable.
CPI, The University of Sheffield, The University of Nottingham, and Drochaid, collaborated on the FastAceJet project, with the aim to develop novel processes that create sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from waste carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
The project was split into two parts – FastJet and AceJet – with each focusing on producing a product that can be transformed into SAF. FastJet investigated methods of generating lipids from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. AceJet focused on a gas fermentation process to produce aldehydes.
How CPI helped
- Screened and strain engineered different aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that can utilise carbon dioxide and hydrogen (FastJet).
- Explored gas fermentation processes to create aldehydes (AceJet).
- Analysed the techno-economic viability of the processes.
- Demonstrated a nutrient-limiting aerobic gas fermentation process to produce microbial lipids from CO2 and hydrogen feedstocks (FastJet).
- Developed an anaerobic fermentation process to produce acetic acid from carbon dioxide and hydrogen feedstocks (AceJet).
- Established lipid analytical procedures and examined effect of growth parameters on lipid profiles.
- Modelling of SAF production processes highlighted the most promising route, which was then subjected to more detailed analysis, with improvements needed to achieve financial viability.
- Increased understanding of processes for producing SAF from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
The FastAceJet programme has outlined the urgent carbon use reduction needed in the aviation industry. With our partners, we’ve developed new, scientifically-sound, novel processes that could be used to produce sustainable aviation fuel in the future.
The project has placed the UK at the forefront of SAF research and brought us closer to creating an economically viable and commercially attractive product. This could end the aviation industry’s reliance on fossil fuels and ultimately eliminate carbon emissions from the jet fuel lifecycle. By leading SAF research, the UK could become the sustainable jet fuel hub of the future, with a plethora of economic benefits, including the creation of new high-value jobs.
Although there’s further work to be done to improve the economic viability of our processes for jet fuel production, the lipid and aldehyde outputs could be leveraged in other industries where they’re needed, such as fast-moving consumer goods. Novel techniques that recycle carbon dioxide together with green hydrogen present substantial environmental benefits for society beyond the aviation industry.
The next step for this SAF project will be to take our scientifically proven processes and develop them into economically viable methods.