Sustainable Biofuel Target Announced For RAF Jets

The Ministry of Defence has announced new targets for up to 50% use of sustainable fuel sources for aircraft. Aviation currently accounts for nearly two thirds of fuel used across defence, so the new standards, which came into effect in November 2020, will see a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

Current aircraft, including F-35s, Typhoons and Wildcat helicopters, could soon be using alternative fuel sources. It is estimated that CO2 emissions are reduced by 18% for every 1,000 nautical miles when just 30% of conventional fuel is replaced with sustainable aviation fuel.

Another benefit of the change will be a reduction in waste, as sustainable aviation fuel is partly made from household waste which would otherwise be sent to landfill.  These materials include packaging, garden cuttings, and food scraps. Other sustainable sources include hydrogenated fats and oils, scrap wood, alcohols, sugars, biomass and algae.

The MOD’s announcement has significance beyond the Government’s target of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Australia and several NATO countries are likely to follow the UK’s standards, which are seen as world-leading.  It will also lay the groundwork for civil and commercial airlines in the UK to follow suit.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps commented:

“Making all forms of transport more sustainable is critical if we are to meet our ambitious Net Zero target.

“From powering RAF Jets to the passenger planes which get us from A to B, sustainable fuels will play a huge part in decarbonising aviation and I’m excited to explore the possibilities as we make transport cleaner, greener and more efficient.”

The adoption of greener technology is part of the MOD’s CO2 emission reduction strategy. Lt Gen Richard Nugee is leading an ongoing review known as the Climate Change and Sustainability Review. It is due to publish its findings in early 2021, and expected to focus on meeting NZ50 targets and reducing the department’s carbon footprint.

Lieutenant General Richard Wardlaw OBE, Chief Defence Logistics and Support commented:

“The Defence Strategic Fuels Authority has been working tirelessly with industry partners to change the Defence Standard for Aviation Fuel, allowing SAF deliveries to the MOD.

This is a significant change for Defence, enabling us to take a key step towards reducing our CO2 footprint, consistent with our wider ambition for achieving NZ50. And this is only the beginning.

“With the Defence Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy, due for release later this year, we are at the start of a journey to adopt a range of greener policies and new greener technologies, so that we can reduce our environmental impact while enhancing our operational capabilities.”

Independent studies show that by 2035, the UK has the potential to develop a domestic industry for the production of sustainable aviation fuel which could generate a Gross Value Added figure of up to £742m annually.  It could also create up to 5,200 UK jobs and a further 13,600 jobs from the global export market.

Additionally, it is estimated that UK manufactured fuels could deliver £550m of Gross Added Value, with a potential global export market worth £1.952bn.

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