SAF: sustainable aviation fuels

Our contribution to the decarbonization of air transport thanks to the use of proprietary technologies and strategic agreements.

Eni Biojet is the first totally biogenic SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) produced at Eni's Livorno refinery, blended with 20% of Eni’s Jet Fuel and made in synergy with Eni’s Gela biorefinery solely from waste raw materials, animal fats and used vegetable oils. The Eni Biojet has been tested in research laboratories, and is the first exclusive batch of SAF to come out of Eni's Livorno refinery.

What is Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)?

Sustainable Aviation Fuels, or SAFs in short, are currently one of the main possible ways to make a significant contribution to the decarbonization of aviation. Raw materials for the production of SAF can be waste materials from various sources such as used cooking oil (UCO), fats, vegetable oils, municipal waste and agricultural/agroforestry residues.

SAFs are fuels that can be used as they are for refuelling aircraft, as they have almost identical chemical and physical characteristics to traditional aviation fuels. This allows them to be deployed using the same refuelling infrastructure and without the need to adapt aircraft or their engines. International production standards require SAFs to be made from a mixture of conventional fuels and up to 50% from biojet. The latter is obtained exclusively from renewable sources but cannot be blended beyond 50% without substantial modifications to aircraft turbines.

As noted by the IATA, the International Air Transport Association which currently represents 290 airlines from 120 countries, i.e. 83% of the world's air traffic, the sustainability of SAFs is not only linked to the reduction of carbon emissions during their life cycle. According to the association's guidelines, SAF production must reduce water use, limit the use of pesticides and fertilisers, not use land intended for food and animal feed, and avoid deforestation. Within this framework, the sustainability of biofuels can be pursued in a manner consistent with environmental, social and economic objectives, because their production uses renewable raw materials and helps prevent the depletion of natural resources.

Claudio Descalzi primo piano

The production of SAFs is a very important achievement on our decarbonization path, with innovative technologies already available and concrete industrial initiatives, and fully reflects our pragmatic approach to energy transition.

Claudio Descalzi, Chief Executive Officer of Eni

The global context

Aviation contributes more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that is expected to rise as air traffic increases. This is a hard-to-abate sector, which currently has a limited number of tools and solutions capable of significantly reducing CO2 emissions in the short to medium term. The two levers of action on which it is possible to focus are, on one hand, the increased efficiency in engines and aerodynamics and, on the other, sustainable fuels. As the IATA strategic plan, which member airlines have signed up to, shows, the entire aviation industry has for some years now been engaged in a collective effort to achieve major CO2 reduction targets. The use of SAF is considered a key factor on the path to decarbonization and requires the joint efforts of many different actors, including at the legislative level. The first flight test of a biofuel-powered aircraft was in 2008, while the first commercial flights using SAF were in 2011. Following IATA's guidelines, the airline industry plays a key role in promoting and disseminating a shared technical certification for SAFs for their use on passenger flights and recognises the importance of strong sustainability standards to achieve a high impact environmental outcome, reducing emissions by up to 80%. This reduction is calculated against the fossil-mix reference standard, over the entire life cycle (well-to-wheel) using waste and residues (such as used cooking oil) for production.

Technological challenge

In October 2021, the production of sustainable aviation fuels was launched, which are in the short to medium term a way to contribute significantly to the decarbonization of aviation. SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuels) produced by Eni Sustainable Mobility (Italian version), a company 100% controlled by Eni, come exclusively from waste and residues, in line with the regulations concerning the limitations placed on the use of palm oil from 2023 onwards. The feedstocks used by Eni are waste animal fats and used vegetable oils. According to the Renewable Energy Directive II, the biocomponent in the final blended fuel ensures a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 90% over the entire life cycle compared to the fossil equivalent.

Eni Sustainable Mobility is already marketing JET A1+Eni Saf (i.e. the fuel containing a biocomponent made through a co-processing technology) produced by the Taranto refinery. SAF is obtained through the process of co-feeding conventional plants with amounts of UCO (Used Cooking Oil). Production at the Livorno refinery is planned to start as early as 2022 by distilling the bio-components produced in the Gela biorefinery thanks to its proprietary technology Ecofining™. This product, named “Eni Biojet”, contains a 100% biogenic component and can be used in a blend with conventional jet fuel up to 50%.  

Growth will continue from 2024 with the start of SAF production at the Gela and Venice bio-refineries. Gela has obtained the authorization to build the plant, while Venice is waiting to receive it. After being cleared for production, the two bio-refineries will be able to produce ca 200,000 t/a of Eni Biojet from renewable raw materials.

Industrial integration

In order to support our commitment to more sustainable aviation and create new industrial synergies, in September 2021 we signed a strategic agreement with Aeroporti di Roma. The agreement envisages the development of decarbonization and digitization projects to foster the transition to smart hubs for the airports managed by AdR, Italy's leading airport hub and the best airport in Europe in the last three years. The agreement includes the introduction of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and ground handling (HVO, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) in the coming months to reduce CO₂ emissions, together with a joint development of sustainable mobility and services and distribution to end customers programme, as well as energy integration projects consistent with the most advanced transition and digitization models.

In the same vein in February 2022 we also signed a strategic agreement with SEA, the company that manages the Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate airports, to expedite their ecological transition process. The agreement broadens the cooperation that began in December 2021 to supply commercial flights with jet fuel with a component from renewable raw materials, as well as possibly supplying pure HVO biofuel (of which Eni Sustainable Mobility is the second largest producer in Europe) for ground handling and a joint development programme for smart mobility services.

In May 2023, the first flight from the African continent powered by Eni Sustainable Mobility aviation biofuel took off from Nairobi, Kenya, to Amsterdam. National airline Kenya Airways (KQ) is the first carrier to use SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) provided by Eni for a long-haul flight. The JetA1 fuel is blended with Eni Biojet produced at the Livorno refinery by distilling bio-components produced at the Gela bio-refinery. KQ is working with Eni on a project to use sustainable aviation fuel for its international flights.