Life-Cycle Assessment of Sustainable Aviation Fuel Derived from Paper Sludge

Kai Lan, David Cruz, Jinyue Li, Amma Asantewaa Agyei Boakye, Hyeonji Park, Phoenix Tiller, Ashutosh Mittal, David Johnson, Sunkyu Park, Yuan Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Converting waste paper sludge to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) offers a circular economy strategy to decarbonize the aviation sector. This study develops a life-cycle assessment (LCA) for converting high-ash paper sludge to SAF in the U.S. using a catalytic sugar upgrading system that consists of ash removal, enzymatic hydrolysis, dehydration, aldol condensation, and hydroprocessing. The LCA is coupled with a process simulation for an industrial-scale biorefinery based on experimental data. We quantified the carbon intensity as 35.7-41.8 gCO2eq MJ-1 SAF (-636 to -584 gCO2eq per dry kg paper sludge) with acetone as a solvent, renewable fuel, and biobased chemicals; this is further reduced to 5.1-11.1 gCO2eq MJ-1 (-925 to -873 gCO2eq per dry kg paper sludge) if ash is recycled and used for substituting cement. Converting 1 dry kg paper sludge to SAF with acetone, renewable fuel, and biobased chemicals (-925 to -584 gCO2eq) is more climate beneficial than landfilling without landfill gas recovery (791 gCO2eq) and with landfill gas recovery (-294 gCO2eq). More than 330 million gallons of SAF can be produced annually (>4 million dry t paper sludge/year in the U.S.), resulting in a reduction of 2-7 million tCO2eq.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8379-8390
Number of pages12
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2800-89956


  • circular economy
  • climate change
  • life-cycle assessment
  • paper sludge
  • sustainable aviation fuel
  • waste valorization


Dive into the research topics of 'Life-Cycle Assessment of Sustainable Aviation Fuel Derived from Paper Sludge'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this