Ireland could potentially start producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from around 2030 as part of its offshore wind energy plans, but “significant progress” is required to develop SAF at scale, according to a study released on Wednesday.
Securing an adequate supply of SAF is the aviation industry’s primary challenge in its quest for net-zero emissions since traditional aviation fuel is a major polluter and sustainable alternatives remain expensive and scarce.
A feasibility study conducted by SAF producer SkyNRG and the research group SFS Ireland revealed that the most promising avenue for Ireland lies in synthetic e-fuels or eSAFs, produced using captured carbon and green hydrogen. Currently, these are produced in even smaller quantities than other alternative fuels.
Neither of these raw materials is currently available in Ireland, but the recent awarding of contracts for offshore wind projects with more than enough capacity to power every Irish household could, “in principle,” generate sufficient green hydrogen to supply the 10 SAF factories needed to meet Ireland’s share of EU-mandated SAF volumes.
“With the potential of offshore wind in Ireland and the possibility to have that abundantly available, there is an opportunity to use that pathway to produce SAF,” said Oskar Meijerink, Head of Future Fuels at SkyNRG, to Reuters. “But to get there, we need quite a bit of development in the country in terms of policy incentives and clear roadmaps.”
Meijerink noted that captured carbon might not be as readily available, meaning Ireland would have to import the raw material if it aims to become an SAF exporter.
The report, backed by Boeing and Irish aircraft lessors Avolon and ORIX Aviation, stated that government incentives such as tax credits, capital facilities, and price guarantees are required to establish a viable eSAF business case.
Investments in hydrogen transportation and storage should also be made, along with addressing issues of electricity grid congestion.
Irish Minister for Enterprises, Simon Coveney, said in a statement that the government looks forward to further collaboration with the industry to explore Ireland’s SAF potential.