At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), India promised to get 50% of its energy from renewable resources by 2030. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), authorities in the country are concerned about climate change and thus they are building the infrastructure required for a resilient future
Transitioning to a low carbon economy needs comprehensive strategies for the sectors most responsible for greenhouse gases (GHG) and those hardest to decarbonize, such as the aviation sector, which is expecting double-digit growth.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Before that, the International Civil Aviation Organization adopted the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, binding the sector to carbon-neutral growth (in line with a 2019 baseline), beginning no later than 2027.
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) can deliver GHG reductions between 65 and 100% relative to fossil jet fuel, the WEF reports. SAFs that are qualified under ASTM International Standard D7566 meet the specifications of aircraft and engine manufacturers, eliminating any additional equipment or infrastructure investments for their use on commercial flights.
Like fossil jet, SAF contains carbon but rather than petroleum, the carbon in SAF can come from waste streams or sustainably grown crops, thereby leaving fossil carbon in the ground.
There are now seven pathways defined in ASTM International D7566 that are qualified for commercial use, including alcohol-to-jet (ATJ), which can use ethanol as feedstock; its costs make up around 70-80% of the production cost of SAF, so having low-cost, available and sustainable feedstock is critical.
Ethanol as a sustainable aviation fuel feedstock is a suitable option for India, backed by its agile, experienced and integrated ethanol value chains, given that India’s energy sector is transitioning to greener technologies.
In India, carbon in agricultural residues, solid waste, and industrial off-gases can provide more than 30 billion liters per year of sustainable ethanol. Harnessing just 5% of this potential with the ATJ pathway can meet India’s 10% sustainable aviation fuel blending target and produce renewable diesel fuel.
In its 2050 Net Zero Carbon plan, IATA projects that 65% of the necessary GHG reductions in 2050 will come from using SAF and 13% from new technology (including electrification or hydrogen). India’s Roadmap of Ethanol Blending 2025 expects 13,500 million liters of ethanol supply by 2025-26, more than double from current 2021 levels, to achieve 20% blending.