The Office of Environment & Energy’s Energy Division (AEE-500) is a team of professionals that manage a portfolio of research and development efforts to enable the safe use of novel energy sources in aviation. The division carries out activities that include: testing and evaluation of new fuels; analysis to better understand the economics, environmental benefits, policy impacts and potential supply of new energy sources; coordination across the U.S. government, with industry partners and internationally to advance new energy sources; and, grants to support production, transportation, blending, and storage infrastructure to enable SAF deployment by industry.
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)
In particular, Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), also known as alternative jet fuels, have been identified by the aviation sector as the most promising near to medium-term means for reducing carbon emissions from aviation. The FAA has worked in partnership with industry to explore the potential of SAF since 2006. “Drop-in” SAF from a wide variety of waste, biomass and gaseous carbon resources can be rapidly adopted and used with existing aircraft and fueling infrastructure without any changes. Use of SAF in aircraft operations can result in significant lifecycle greenhouse gas emission reductions and air quality improvements.
The research portfolio provides funding to advance SAF fuel testing, analysis, and coordination efforts.
SAF testing and analysis work is conducted via a range of Aviation Sustainability Center (ASCENT) research projects and through the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program. These efforts ensure that novel jet fuels are drop-in compatible with today’s fleet of aircraft, and qualify as being safe for use. Test data and methodologies are shared with standard setting organization ASTM International to enable fuel specification development Through ASCENT, a SAF clearing house and SAF testing capability have been created to accelerate new fuel evaluations.
ASCENT and DOT/Volpe research projects also include methodologies to support SAF supply development and further our understanding of the environmental, economic, and production potential of SAF. This includes the development of tools for conducting SAF techno-economic and policy analyses and supply chain logistics. For more information on SAF analysis and tools efforts, please visit: ASCENT SAF projects and DOT/Volpe.
FAA supports public-private cooperation through the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative® (CAAFI®), founded in 2006, to engage and enable coordination between our R&D efforts and the commercial aviation and emerging alternative fuels industries.
FAA co-leads "The Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge” a government-wide initiative led by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce the cost, improve the sustainability and significantly expand the production and use of SAF. An interagency effort is taking a comprehensive approach to federal actions that will enable industry to build out the SAF supply to meet the near term goal of 3 billion gallons per year of SAF by 2030 and place the U.S. on a trajectory to meeting 100% of aviation’s fuel needs by 2050 (an estimated 35 billion gallons per year).
FAA provides SAF technical expertise to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) through participation in ICAO working groups under the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP). These efforts are enabling the crediting of SAF use by aircraft operators internationally.
Additionally, as part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the FAA has a discretionary grant program that will make investments to accelerate production and use of SAF in support of U.S. aviation climate goals. The Fueling Aviation’s Sustainable Transition (FAST) grant program enables eligible entities to carry out projects located in the United States that produce, transport, blend, or store sustainable aviation fuel. The FAST grant program expands FAA’s investment in SAF beyond the research space to deployment of infrastructure to produce, transport, blend, and store sustainable aviation fuel. More information on the FAST grant program can be found here.
Energy Division efforts are conducted in partnership with a wide range of aviation stakeholders that leverage resources from the private sector. ASCENT, like all FAA COEs, requires a one hundred percent cost-share from non-federal sources and benefits from an advisory committee with robust participation from a wide range of aviation stakeholders, including industry. CLEEN is a public-private partnership where the industry contributes a cost share that matches or exceeds the amount provided by the FAA. As a coalition among the FAA, airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers, industry, and other U.S. government agencies, CAAFI® lends a collective focus to the combined effort to enable the emerging SAF industry. These partnerships are critical to sustaining the effort to develop novel jet fuels and will help ensure aviation has a wide range of energy options for decades to come.