A one-of-a-kind coalition is launching in Minnesota to scale sustainable aviation fuel to prepare for the growing needs of commercial aviation to reach net zero by 2050. The coalition has launched the Minnesota SAF Hub, the first large-scale SAF Hub in the U.S.
The GREATER MSP Partnership, Bank of America, Delta Air Lines, Ecolab and Xcel Energy established the SAF Hub as part of the collaborative effort of leaders throughout the value chain and a shared commitment to scale SAF production and replace traditional jet fuel. These members of the coalition are joined by other members of the industry, including the State of Minnesota. The coalition and industry members will utilize a strategy to decarbonize the airline industry.
“Our SAF Hub will accelerate progress toward decarbonizing the airline industry nationally while also creating thousands of good jobs across Minnesota,” GREATER MSP Partnership President and CEO Peter Frosch said. “It is good news that some of the world’s most innovative companies are combining forces to build SAF production at the scale the market demands and at a pace the climate requires. Together, we are recruiting the next set of partners to join this effort to build an integrated SAF value chain in the center of North America’s economy.”
The coalition has a multi-year strategy for the strengthened scaling of SAF in the industry. The strategy involves environmental and water stewardship at all points in the SAF value chain, starting with the feedstock and following through with each subsequent step in the SAF production process. The coalition is dedicated to producing affordable and low-carbon SAF through the development of an integrated value chain reaching from production source and processing to refining, blending and ultimately its use at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP).
The multi-year strategy is committed to nurturing the implementation of groundbreaking solutions and technology to help fast-track the transformation of SAF scaling in commercial aviation. It will support research in universities and the private sector and address the many challenges faced in the production of low-carbon SAF from regenerative agricultural inputs.
SAF is key to the decarbonization of the aviation industry in the journey to net zero. Airlines and industry leaders have committed to decarbonization and many have pledged to purchase billions of gallons of SAF in the coming decades. Currently, there is not enough SAF being produced to fuel commercial airlines around the world for a single day. On the World Economic Forum’s list of Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2023, SAF marks third. SAF is a safe and fully certified alternative to traditional jet fuel which can be used in many of today’s aircraft engines and transported through existing infrastructure.
“The Minnesota SAF Hub is the game changer aviation needs to start producing SAF at the volumes required to meet our aggressive goals,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. “This coalition of heavy hitters from across the SAF ecosystem are collaborating to rapidly scale production, demonstrating the power of partnerships to meet our shared goal faster than any of us could do on our own.”
Sustainable fuel is produced from many sources including renewable feedstocks and used cooking oil. SAF can lower the amount of lifecycle carbon emissions produced by aviation by more than 80 percent. There is a large reduction in emissions from SAF compared to traditional jet fuel. After eight months of collaboration the coalition shared its objectives on Tuesday at the North American SAF Conference and Expo in Minneapolis. The progress in the past eight months includes the establishment of a multi-year strategy, securing financial incentives from the State of Minnesota, and the building of a coalition of Minnesota-based organizations and companies like the State of Minnesota, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, the University of Minnesota and McKinsey & Company.
Using a phased approach
The strategy will be implemented in a multi-phase approach to the scaling of SAF. This begins with the flow of SAF into Minnesota and reaches the support of a strong and flexible SAF production infrastructure. The coalition has taken a practical approach through the use of existing technologies to progress rapidly as well as the increase in the development of technologies with a large carbon reduction potential.
Now – rapid scaling using existing feedstocks and infrastructure
The coalition aims to bring commercial-scale amounts of affordable and low-cost SAF to MSP from out of state. Minnesota’s SAF tax credit was passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by Governor Walz. This ranks Minnesota among the more desirable states to produce and blend SAF. The coalition will work with current and prospective producers of SAF to boost production in Minnesota. This will increase the quantity of available fuel to meet the coalition’s emission reduction goals. New additions to the coalition will also be welcomed, including SAF producers, investors, value chain players and corporate partners.
Next – accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gases through agriculture
The future production of SAF in Minnesota will include the use of new and existing infrastructure and goods while focusing on the transformation of Minnesota ethanol to jet fuel. The coalition will work to reduce the carbon intensity of SAF with the incorporation of carbon capture and regenerative agricultural practices and crops.
Future – maximizing the amount of greenhouse gas reductions through innovative technology
The Minnesota SAF Hub will boost the commercial scaling of SAF through the strong support of policy, rich agricultural landscape, economic renewable energy sources, research and development capabilities, current aviation fuel infrastructure and the increased demand for jet fuel at MSP. Delta already uses roughly 250 million gallons annually to power operations and is one of the largest global hubs. Thanks to the collaborative effort of the coalition and partners, Delta hopes to use SAF for over 10 percent of fuel at MSP by 2027 and 50 percent by 2035.
The coalition is already making the effort to recruit new producers and investors that share the sustainable commitment.
“We know from experience that the path to building a sustainable future requires collective action,” Ecolab chairman and CEO Christophe Beck said. “It was important for Ecolab to join other industry leaders on day one of the Minnesota SAF Hub, as our process innovation and technology expertise can help the coalition scale to meet the challenge and opportunity of sustainable aviation.”
“SAF is a next-generation technology that will help us advance our vision of providing net-zero energy to our customers by 2050,” said Bob Frenzel, the chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “We’re excited to support carbon reductions in the transportation sector by supplying carbon-free electricity and clean fuels like hydrogen and renewable natural gas, spurring commercial-scale SAF production in our headquarters state of Minnesota. This coalition also allows Xcel Energy to explore other end uses for SAF, including as a clean fuel for power generation and home heating.”
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