Ireland could produce 23 megatons of SAF a year: Aircraft Leasing Ireland


Ireland could produce 23 megatons of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) annually, via the power-to-liquid process using its offshore wind resources, according to a report from Aircraft Leasing Ireland (ALI). Power-to-liquid is the process of converting renewable electricity into synthetic fuels.

Marie-Louise Kelly, chairperson, ALI said SAF is aviation’s “most promising solution” to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Ireland holds a unique position in the global aviation sector as the home of most of the world’s largest aircraft leasing companies that, together, own almost 50% of the global fleet of aircraft,” she said. “The SAF Manufacturing in Ireland report focuses on how ALI, working alongside government, can accelerate the development, manufacture, distribution and use of SAF.” 

Shane O’Reilly, director, KPMG, which helped write the report, said: “As a country, Ireland is well positioned to support the development and production of SAF as we have significant sources of key items required, namely renewable electricity and agricultural and forestry residues, not to mention the intellectual capital actively involved in this sector.”

The power-to-liquid presents a low greenhouse gas SAF production option, according to ALI. The report noted that if Ireland’s top ranked offshore wind resources were fully tapped, it could produce more than 20 times its 2019 jet fuel consumption.

Whilst the cost of power-to-liquid SAF cost is 2.3 to 6.4 times that of fossil fuels, increasing scale and shrinking cost of renewable electricity will support the transition from biological feedstocks to power-to-liquid SAF. Also, ALI highlighted the need for aviation to improve its fuel efficiency gains of about 1.9% per year – especially as air travel returns to its long-term growth rate of 4%.

Offshore wind energy will also be needed for domestic electricity, fuels for road transport and green hydrogen production. But even within this, Ireland could produce enough SAF to cover its jet fuel needs and sell excess supply abroad.

In 2020, 12.1% of wind energy in Ireland was lost to dispatch down (when the grid shuts a generator due to lack of demand). Had the surplus electricity been converted to power to liquid SAF, it could have supplied 4% of Ireland’s aviation fuel demand. The Republic of Ireland’s target to achieve 80% renewable electricity by 2030 includes a target to deliver 7GW of offshore wind capacity over the same period. If all of this was used for SAF production, it could produce 25% of Ireland’s current aviation fuel demand.

For context, to cover all of Ireland’s 2019 aviation fuel demand of 1,000 kilotons, it would require 30 GWh of energy – equivalent to the total energy consumption in Ireland that year. This presents a major challenge in providing enough renewable energy for SAF and all other national electricity targets.

However, Ireland’s untapped potential in offshore wind presents opportunity.  The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) ranked Ireland as the number one market for offshore wind generation due to its potential 85GW of capacity. If this is developed and entirely used for power-to-liquid production, it could theoretically be used to produce 23 megatons of SAF per annum.

To realise this potential, O’Reilly said that companies and the Irish government must work closely together to accelerate its production and adoption.

Jan Melgaard, chair of the Sustainability Committee, ALI agreed: “By incentivising the development and production of SAF, this government can help attract what will be a game-changing manufacturing sector to Ireland, which will also lead to the creation of a significant number of highly skilled jobs.”

Read the full report from Aircraft Leasing Ireland and KPMG here.