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Canada gets roadmap to produce billion litres of SAF by 2030

Plan represents a reduction of about 1.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions

IMAGE: Geoff Tauvette, executive director of C-SAF.
Geoff Tauvette, C-SAF's executive director. (Courtesy the Canadian Council for Sustainable Aviation Fuels) 

The Canadian Council for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (C-SAF) has launched a roadmap detailing the policies and next steps necessary to produce one billion litres of domestic sustainable aviation fuel annually by 2030.

The roadmap states the sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) should achieve a minimum 50 per cent reduction in life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional jet fuel. This represents a reduction of about 1.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

SAF is produced from renewable feedstocks widely available in Canada, such as forest and agricultural residues, industrial fats, oils and grease, municipal solid wastes, and carbon dioxide captured from industrial processes or the air and then blended with more traditional fuel.

“The roadmap provides a picture of where we think we can make the SAF and what we can make it from, and what actions are needed . . . to be put in place in order to stimulate the market, so that we can achieve that target in 2030,” Geoff Tauvette, C-SAF’s executive director, told SustainableBiz.

C-SAF was created in February 2022 by a consortium of 60 domestic, international and cargo airlines operating in Canada who own and operate aviation fuel storage and distribution facilities at 11 international airports across the country. It is comprised of more than 110 members across the aviation industry.

Some of its airline members are WestJet, FedEx, Air Canada, American Airlines, UPS, Porter Airlines, Sunwing Airlines and Lufthansa. Other members include Shell Aviation, RBC Capital Markets, Tidewater Midstream Ltd., Airbus, Mont-Royal University, University of British Columbia, Canadian Oilseed Processors Association and Bombardier.

The C-SAF roadmap

The council worked on the roadmap over the past year, collaborating across the aviation ecosystem and holding workshops. Tauvette said it was built on Canada’s 2022-2030 Aviation Climate Action Plan.

The 2030 target represents 10 per cent of jet fuel use in Canada. C-SAF’s roadmap states that by 2035, Canada should be ready to produce SAF to meet 25 per cent of total jet fuel demand, which would reduce emissions by 15 to 20 per cent for departures from Canada.

According to the council, Canada has sustainable biomass for seven to 10 billion litres of SAF per year. Companies have already announced plans for facilities that would be able to produce 500 million litres of SAF annually by 2030, but many haven’t reached final investment decisions, resulting in what the roadmap calls an “optimistic scenario.”

The roadmap is broken down into three key objectives:

  • maximize SAF now from commercial-ready pathways;
  • establish commercial pathways for all Canada’s feedstocks; and
  • launch demonstrations with homegrown technology in multiple pathways.

The first objective involves fully utilizing the potential for any SAF that may come from renewable diesel facilities being announced in Canada.

“Those particularly need some positive signals from the government in order to get to investment decisions. If we want SAF in the next two, three years, it's got to come from that type of process, those processes that make renewable diesel from used cooking oils, plant-based oils and things of that nature,” Tauvette explained.

“The second piece to our strategies, we want to activate those other feedstocks that we think Canada has great opportunities in. Namely forestry residues, municipal solid waste, agricultural residues. Those need a little bit of a different policy push . . . where we secure some funds in order to develop some of those technologies.”

According to Tauvette, the roadmap indicates if the policies made SAF the preferential product, Canada would have enough biomass to satisfy "pretty much" the current jet fuel requirement in the country.

Included in the roadmap is a breakdown of the value chains for SAF in different provinces, like wood gasification in Quebec or emerging technologies like carbon dioxide alcohol-to-jet fuel in B.C.

“The great news for Canada is that there are players in all parts of the value chain, you don't see that in a lot of other countries,” Tauvette said. “Some have better low-carbon hydrogen opportunities, some of course have refining hubs, particularly in the West where you have a nexus of feedstock.”

Challenges to future SAF production

The report notes Canada has neither clear supply-side production incentives nor a mandate to help build the SAF market — just a nascent voluntary credit market under the Clean Fuels Regulation.

Tauvette did state there is more work ongoing at the federal level to produce plans for aviation decarbonization.

He also highlighted the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) as among the biggest dangers to the nascent SAF supply chain in Canada.

“Even in the renewable biofuels industry (there are) $10 billion worth of facilities on paper that are waiting for final investment decision, and the IRA is causing some delay in terms of decisions. So we've seen in the last few months, there's been a few SAF announcements as well in the U.S., so definitely stimulating production out there,” he said.

“But then, of course, we're worried that it's going to draw all the feedstock from Canada into the U.S. for producing SAF, and then we're going to have to buy it back.”

The next steps for C-SAF are to create task forces to tackle individual aspects of the two-year plan included in the roadmap, from June this year to May 2025.

This includes mapping greenhouse gas emissions of all SAF production, advancing a policy package, building an infrastructure framework and creating an active project pipeline.

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