New SAF Made From Air Could Be a Game Changer

 - February 28, 2023, 4:29 PM
Once Air Company successfully scales up its production technology that can produce sustainable aviation fuel literally from the air, the aviation industry, and the environment, could see a groundbreaking shift. (Photo: Air Company)

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) developer Air Company has been awarded a sliding scale contract by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) worth up to $65 million to scale up production and install its technology on-site at military bases. As Air Company’s Airmade SAF is derived from captured carbon dioxide and water—essentially air, it can be made anywhere and would not be tied to the availability of a specific feedstock. The company is moving through the approval process with ASTM, the governing body that establishes the standards and specifications for fuels, as it works to expand production levels.

Last year, in a program named Project Fierce, the company supplied the USAF with a small amount of Airmade SAF—produced at its Brooklyn, New York pilot facility—which was successfully tested in an unmanned flight. According to the USAF, “the most recent round of testing confirmed it as the first fuel made entirely from carbon dioxide emissions that matches the properties and performance of jet A-1, and contains all necessary components of jet fuel, including aromatics.” The lack of aromatics in all other forms of SAF has caused the ASTM to certify their use only in blends with conventional jet fuel up to 50 percent, meaning the Airmade SAF could theoretically be widely used in its neat, unblended state if and when approved.

The USAF noted that the Airmade SAF as tested, is net carbon neutral requiring as much captured carbon input as is emitted when the fuel is burned. However, instead of contributing additional emissions, it is recycling them. In a follow-on Project SynCH, once the technology reaches full development the military is looking to install production facilities where the fuel is needed to reduce its dependence on the commercial jet fuel markets. Air Company co-founder and CEO Gregory Constantine stated the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to select production locations ahead of 2030.

“Carbon dioxide as a feedstock has not been used at any scale yet,” Constantine told AIN. “With an infinite supply of CO2 as a feedstock, we’re able to decrease emissions significantly while shifting towards a circular carbon economy.”

The contract with the USAF is milestone-based with the first tier being the production of SAF in the “tens of hundreds of gallons” for the DoD to develop and derisk the project at scale. The amount of the contract will escalate based on the amount of SAF produced over its five-year span.

Constantine explained there are currently offtake commitments from global partners including JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic to purchase more than 1 billion gallons of Airmade SAF. "Each partner has a different commitment but importantly what we're excited about is the breadth of commitments being made," he said. "With seven global organizations already committed, and many more in conversations, we're seeing a groundswell of excitement from some of the biggest names in aviation, an industry that makes a disproportionately high amount of greenhouse gas emissions."