Ricardo leads EU initiative for sustainable aviation fuel certification

Ricardo leads EU initiative for sustainable aviation fuel certification

Ricardo, a global leader in strategic environmental and engineering consultancy based in the UK, has been selected by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to spearhead a consortium aimed at establishing Europe’s first Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Clearing House.

Ricardo will work in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, Intertek, Politecnico di Torino, ENVISA, and Spark Legal and Policy Consulting. Together, these experts will create a network of European and international testing facilities to assist fuel producers in evaluating the environmental impacts of their products and ensuring compliance with stringent eligibility criteria. The EU SAF Clearing House has already commenced testing its first sustainable aviation fuel.

Addressing SAF demand and regulatory goals

Maria Rueda, EASA’s strategy and safety management director, emphasised the importance of the initiative.

“The demand  for SAF will grow ever more to meet the goals set in the ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation and increasingly reduce the emissions from aviation. Via the EU SAF Clearing House, EASA wants to ensure that the fuel industry gets the support needed to succeed in developing SAF for aviation, so that their innovation efforts are not in vain and more SAF is brought to the market,” Rueda said.

The role of SAF in reducing emissions

Sustainable aviation fuels are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based fuels, replacing them on a 1:1 basis but with a smaller carbon footprint. As a ‘drop-in’ fuel, SAFs are considered the most viable short-to-medium-term solution for reducing aviation’s CO2 emissions and achieving regulatory targets.

The ReFuelEU Aviation Regulation, adopted in 2023, mandates a 2% SAF production target for European aviation by 2025, increasing to 6% by 2030 and up to 70% by 2050. Currently, SAFs represent less than 0.05% of total EU aviation fuel use. Scaling production to meet these targets has been challenging, with new products needing to meet strict specifications and undergo rigorous testing before commercial use.

Streamlining certification and scaling production

The EU SAF Clearing House will adopt the ASTM D4054 process, a recognised industry standard for evaluating new aviation fuels and additives. Acting as a virtual forum, it will provide advice on data quality, testing facilities, and qualification, reducing the cost and complexity of certification. This approach is crucial for increasing SAF volumes and encouraging diverse feedstocks.

In addition to certification, the clearing house will offer sustainability services for fuel producers and focus on building a robust SAF supply chain in Europe. It will participate in technical events, advise on research and innovation, and promote policy coherence.

Dr. Rui Neiva, principal consultant for Sustainable Transport at Ricardo and Programme Manager for the EU SAF Clearing House, highlighted the initiative’s potential.

“The Clearing House will be an important milestone in the journey to a cleaner, more sustainable aviation sector in Europe. The certification of new fuels, for example, will unlock new opportunities for SAF production and the diversification of feedstocks. We have extensive experience of bringing together networks of technical organisations in sectors such as automotive, aerospace and urban transit to collaborate on specific industry challenges. We will be bringing the same organisational expertise to this project, and we look forward to working with our consortium partners, the wider aviation industry and EASA to deliver a service recognised for its efficiency, impartiality and deep technical insight.”

The EU SAF Clearing House is now open to applications and invites stakeholders, particularly fuel producers, to engage through its dedicated website.