French entrepreneurs use plant sugar for sustainable aviation fuel

Sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, is aircraft fuel made from renewable sources such as recycled cooking oil. Almost half a million flights have used this fuel mixed with conventional petroleum-based kerosene – almost all of them in Europe.

Now the French say that they have produced the second generation of this fuel, which is made from vegetable sugar.

Marc Delcourt, co-founder and CEO of Global Bioenergies, was standing near a beet sugar factory and an adjacent small unit. “This is the unit we built this year,” he said.

The facility uses bacteria to produce hydrocarbons – in other words – sugar.

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In the Champagne region of France, of course they grow grapes, but they also grow sugar beets. lots of them. Napoleon ordered the massive planting of sugar beets when the British naval blockade cut off the supply of sugar from the Caribbean. Some 200 years later, France is still the largest sugar beet producer in Europe.

We have a process to convert sugar, whatever it is. Delcour said it could be sugar beets, sugar cane, sugar from starches — hence corn or wheat — or even sugar from agricultural residues. Agricultural residues such as straw or forestry residues such as wood chips from sawmills.

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As plants grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — helping to limit the effects of climate change, Delcourt explained. But does this new fuel made from plants do it?

Well, a plane made a test flight from Germany to France with only this new aviation fuel in the tank and it arrived safe and sound.

According to John Plaza, CEO of the US arm of SkyNRG, a Dutch company moving into SAF production, the market opportunity is significant.

We are anticipating high demand due to both policies [European Union] and the United States, as well as targeting the aviation industry [carbon] “Net zero by 2050,” Plaza said.

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Global Bioenergy announced plans to build a 30,000-ton aviation fuel plant from wood waste in 2027.

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