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Biobased fuels take flight

by Craig Bettenhausen
December 3, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 40


The first transatlantic flight to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) landed in New York on Nov. 28. Virgin Atlantic Airways flew a Boeing 787 from London using a jet fuel blend derived by BP and Virent from waste fats and plant sugars. Though the flight was just a demonstration, companies making SAF and renewable diesel are racing to meet a projected boom in biofuel demand. Agriculture giant ADM recently opened a $350 million soybean processing plant in North Dakota as part of a joint venture with Marathon Petroleum that the firms say will make enough vegetable oil for 280 million L of diesel per year. In Kansas, CVR Renewables has selected a Honeywell technology for a plant that will convert more than 3 million L of waste oil per day into SAF. And in California, Chevron has converted a petroleum-fed diesel production line at its El Segundo refinery to yield SAF or diesel from biobased oils. In his remarks commemorating the flight, Virgin CEO Shai Weiss said SAF is too rare and costly today to make 100% SAF flights commonplace. “There is simply not enough SAF, and it’s clear that in order to reach production at scale, we need to see significantly more investment.”


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