Pittsburgh International Airport leads the way on SAF production

Posted: 18 June 2024 | | No comments yet

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) are leading the way when it comes to SAF production, introducing an on-site storage facility.

saf pittsburgh airport

SkyClean US Energy Inc. and Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) are taking a significant step in reducing carbon emissions for the global aviation industry by introducing new SAF facilities.

SkyClean is currently in the process of signing a land lease agreement, in order to build a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production facility at the airport. Once complete, PIT will be the first major airport in the U.S. to feature SAF production on-site.

The proposed facility would be among the biggest SAF production facilities in the U.S. currently, capable of producing 25 million gallons of unblended SAF annually with future production possibly expanding up to 75 million gallons. This would be enough to supply all the fuelling needs at PIT and other airports in the Midwest and Northeast.

SkyClean would construct and own the production facility at a location within PIT’s 8,800 acres. PIT is one of a few airports in the world that already has access to on-site natural gas, which would be an important component in the SAF production process in addition to ethanol.

One of SkyClean’s partners in the technology is Swedish Biofuels AB, a company on the cutting edge of researching and developing sustainable aviation fuels that are already ASTM International certified and approved. SkyClean is pleased to work with Swedish Biofuels and their exclusive global technology alliance partner, KBR.

KBR’s PureSAF technology is an innovative, advanced process that produces a fully fungible jet fuel from a variety of feedstocks at low-cost and at industrial-scale. In addition to processing ethanol, PureSAF can also convert mixed alcohols, carbon dioxide and synthesis gas to SAF, opening pathways to utilise captured carbon for a cleaner, greener future.

The announcement comes at a time when the aviation industry is increasingly looking to SAF to achieve carbon reduction standards.

“The aviation industry must earn its right to grow, and SAF is of the utmost priority. We at PIT are all in. Pittsburgh is once again leading the way on energy toward a more sustainable future,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis. “With its storied history of innovation, reinvention and creativity, particularly for the environment and energy, the world can once again look to Pittsburgh as a trailblazer as we develop this vital resource for our industry.”

SkyClean’s SAF utilising Swedish Biofuels technology is known as an Alcohol-to-Jet pathway, or ATJ, resulting in at least a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions over the traditional fossil jet fuel used today. Alcohol-to-Jet is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

Already in the works: In addition to natural gas production, PIT already has infrastructure in place to store aviation fuel, including massive fuel storage tanks, a holdover of its one-time use as a passenger hub for US Airways.

CNX Resources Corp. produces PIT’s natural gas. PIT is also working with CNX on alternative fuel strategies, including the development of hydrogen and SAF—all of which pair with PIT’s energy initiative.

What is SAF? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, sustainable aviation fuel is used to power aircraft with similar properties to conventional jet fuel but with a smaller carbon footprint. Depending on the feedstock and technologies used to produce it, SAF can significantly reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to current fossil jet fuel.

Aviation industry organizations, led globally by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and ICAO, have agreed to a carbon emissions reduction program that will reach net-zero in 2050. IATA recognised the PIT—SkyClean announcement as a world-leading step for airports.

“SAF is critical for aviation’s decarbonisation,” said Hemant Mistry, Director, Net Zero Transition, IATA. “IATA will be monitoring progress of this project closely as an example of production initiatives delivering much needed results.”

Both IATA and ICAO are lobbying world governments to enact policies that are “harmonised” across borders as well as technology and feedstock-agnostic; minimising differentiators in local laws and mandates will speed up the industry’s transition process, they say.

In the U.S., federal agencies have laid out the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, a roadmap to reduce the cost, enhance the sustainability, and expand the production and use of SAF.

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