SA Canegrowers

SA Canegrowers attends Sustainable Aviation Fuel summit in Brussels

As SA Canegrowers continues to lay the groundwork for a more diverse sugarcane producing sector in South Africa, leaders attended the two-day Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Summit in Brussels, Belgium. The conference was attended by representatives from various airlines, technology providers, feedstock suppliers and policymakers.

South Africa’s sugarcane growing industry is well positioned to supply feedstock for sustainably produced aviation fuel and the work that has already been done in the domestic sector by SAF has established a solid foundation for the future.

CEO at SA Canegrowers, Dr Thomas Funke – who attended the summit – said the organisation would continue to drive innovation and sustainability in a bid to secure a bright and viable future for sugarcane growers in the country.

According to experts at the conference, research is showing that passengers are demanding airline operators to take climate change seriously and corporate clients who use airlines regularly are demanding increased climate accountability from carriers. Further, regulatory pressure from governments and shifts in attitude towards the enormity of the climate crisis are being brought to bear on the aviation industry.

In 2021, the European Union declared that aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse emissions. In 2022 aviation accounted for 2% of global energy-related CO₂ emissions having grown faster in recent decades than rail, road and shipping.

In a 2021 report titled The Viability of South African Sugarcane Ethanol Feedstock for Sustainable Aviation Fuel Production compiled by the Round Table for Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) and SA Canegrowers, it was estimated by diverting 50% of the 19-million tonnes of sugar cane produced by growers each year towards ethanol production, the industry could produce about 700-million litres of ethanol a year for local or international biofuel markets. This ethanol could then be converted into 433-million litres of sustainable fuel for the aviation industry.

The study shows that if both aviation and road transport are considered, the SA demand for fuel ethanol alone could be about 2.4-billion litres a year. Globally, SAFs account for less than 1% of jet fuel use and are likely to hit 2% by 2025 with the right policy support. The potential for growth is exponential. (Chairman Andrew Russell – Business Day May 14, 2024).

Caption: SA Canegrowers CEO Dr Thomas Funke asks a question at the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Summit in Brussels. He is flanked by Andy Church who is the Innovations and Technology manager at SA Canegrowers and Thobani Lubisi who is a member of the SA Canegrowers’ Board.

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