FAA Awards Research Grants to Build Sustainable Aviation Fuel Supply Chains

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is tapping some of the nation’s top research institutions to build sustainable aviation fuel supply chains in different regions across the United States. More than $1.4 million will go to five universities to undertake the research. Since 2014, the FAA has invested more than $13 million in the effort being conducted by ASCENT, the FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment.

“Sustainable aviation fuels are a critical part of meeting our climate goals for aviation, and we want to help that industry grow and create jobs right here in the U.S.,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These funds will help build regional supply chains so that communities across our country – many of them rural – feel the economic benefits of producing sustainable aviation fuel.”

The universities’ research concentrates on identifying regional feedstock that can become sustainable aviation fuel using the region’s existing infrastructure, creating a dependable supply within reach of airport demand. Researchers have and continue to look at other barriers that need to be eliminated to drive down the cost of sustainable aviation fuel.

The investment builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement this September of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Grand Challenge, a government-wide initiative designed to catalyze the production of at least three billion gallons per year by 2030.

The research teams on this project include:

Washington State University: $412,000

  • Examine the potential for retrofitting existing pulp and paper mills, sugarcane mills, dry corn ethanol plants, and petroleum refineries to enable jet fuel production from forest harvests, waste materials, and various crops.
  • Evaluate supply chains for their ability to create jobs, aid U.S. industry, and add resiliency to the national liquid fuel supply.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $450,000

  • Consider the economic and environmental sustainability of a range of fuel pathways, including the co-production of sustainable aviation fuel in existing petroleum refineries.

University of Tennessee: $100,000

  • Support the development of an industry to produce sustainable aviation fuel using woody biomass feedstock in the Central Appalachian Region.

University of Hawaii: $100,000

  • Develop a model for tropical oil supply chains and assess gasification systems to produce fuel and/or hydrogen from construction and demolition landfill waste.

Purdue University: $350,000

  • Understand the land use impacts of sustainable aviation fuels on greenhouse gas emissions.

Today’s funding is part of $14.4 million in grants to teams at 13 universities across the country to undertake research critical to building a sustainable aviation system. A detailed description of all 35 projects and their associated grant amounts can be found here. Among these is a new project that builds on a supply chain effort to examine how hydrogen production can be leveraged to produce sustainable aviation fuel with maximum greenhouse gas emission reductions at the lowest possible costs.

Last month, the U.S. released its first-ever comprehensive Aviation Climate Action Plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Earlier this year, the FAA announced more than $100 million in matching grants to increase aircraft efficiency, reduce noise and aircraft emissions, and develop and implement new software to reduce taxi delays.