Exploring Low Carbon Options for Aviation Fuels

Research Lead: Julie Witcover

University: UC Davis

Problem Statement: Aviation is widely considered to be the most difficult transportation mode to decarbonize. Substantial projected increases in long-distance air travel this century mean it remains a growing problem for California’s climate goals. Several lower carbon aviation fuels have received ASTM certification at specified blends in jet fuel and been used in commercial use. Unusual among advanced biofuels, alternative aviation fuels have lined up investment, financing, and off-take agreements. In 2019, aviation fuels became eligible to earn Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits as an opt-in fuel. Interest from local governments and airports is surging. As California pushes to decarbonize transportation, how best to approach aviation fuels and harness the private sector interest without detracting from on-and off-road heavy duty sector decarbonization is paramount.

Project Description: The work plan involves an overview of existing literature on various aspects of the aviation fuel challenge: technoeconomic analysis, product certification, policy landscape, investment climate, and other supply chain or consumer-oriented issues, such as airport fuel delivery, fuel feedstock availability, or competition between aviation and on-road sectors for biofuels, or the role of public pressure for “cleaner” flights. The project will involve: a) reviewing the literature in each topic area separately, b) identifying important links across topic areas relevant to the challenge ahead, and c) pulling out areas that seem particularly problematic or ill-defined. Findings from a, b, and especially c will be discussed with relevant stakeholders from policy, industry, and airport authority arenas, in addition to environmental non-governmental organization representatives. The synthesis paper will summarize the key findings from the literature reviews and discussions and identify next steps, or policy takeaways, regarding the “road” to decarbonized aviation fuels in California.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $25,000

Project Partner(s): California Air Resources Board, California Energy Commission