The Challenge Ahead: A Critical Perspective on Meeting U.S. Growth Targets for Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


With demand for jet fuel expected to more than double by 2050 and triple by 2070, continued and accelerated efforts to decarbonize the global aviation sector are needed to curtail rising emissions and avert the worst outcomes of climate change. In response to this call-to-action, the United States has unveiled the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Grand Challenge, which seeks to expedite the development of alternative fuel pathways that offer a minimum of a 50% reduction in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional jet fuel. However, there is growing concern on whether sufficient biomass will be readily available to satisfy the projected sharp rise in demand for SAF. Carbon dioxide point-source emissions combined with rising supply from direct air capture efforts have the potential to complement and offset any supply gaps for biomass-derived SAF and other use cases. Independent of the chosen feedstock and conversion technology, numerous challenges persist across SAF production in seeking to drive down fuel cost and carbon intensity. To hit the 2030 target of 3 billion gal/yr, this means about a 100% compound annual growth rate in volumetric SAF production (about 130 times scale-up) will need to be realized. To achieve the stretch goal of 35 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2050, volumetric production must increase by a factor of 12 from the 3-billion-gal/year 2030 target of SAF Grand Challenge. The comparatively longer runway for 2050 combined with significant production volume growth suggests a more inclusive "all-hands-on-deck"-style approach will likely play a role. A key component in success lies in the coordinated research, development, demonstration, and deployment efforts by multiple federal agencies and industry partnerships.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5100-89327


  • aviation
  • e-fuel
  • jet fuel
  • SAF
  • SAF Grand Challenge
  • sustainable aviation fuel


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