In the UAE Year of Sustainability, and at the 3rd ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) held in Dubai, eight founding entities announced the launch of the “Air-CRAFT” initiative – a UAE-based research consortium focused on developing, producing, and scaling sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technologies.

Air-CRAFT, or the UAE Centre for Renewable and Advanced Fuel Technologies for Aviation, is a first-of-its-kind initiative that will bring together entities across the value chain – industrial policymakers, aviation regulators, fuel producers, academia and researchers, aircraft and powerplant manufacturers, and airline operators. While based in the UAE, the consortium will also engage with, and welcome the participation of relevant international entities as it progresses. The new initiative was announced on the sidelines of CAAF/3 today and ahead of COP28.

Air-CRAFT is supported by the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. “The aviation sector holds great importance as a key contributor to the GDP and as a target sector for our robust decarbonization drive,” said His Excellency Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure. “The UAE has committed to reaching net zero by 2050, and this goal can only be achieved by slashing the emissions across the board. Air-CRAFT will go a long way in supporting the decarbonization of the aviation sector, helping to make it resilient and sustainable well into the future.”

His Excellency Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy of the UAE and Chairman of the GCAA said: “Introducing ‘Air-CRAFT’ at CAAF3 in Dubai emphasizes the UAE’s commitment to accelerate sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production, uniting government, and private sector, and academia for a collective push toward sustainable aviation practice”. Bin Touq adds, “Aligned with the net-zero emissions goal by 2050, this consortium, the largest and most unique in the SAF industry, represents a substantial stride towards a greener aviation future, and we look forward to making a significant positive impact through it”.

The collaboration is in support of the UAE’s National SAF Roadmap principles and the commercial aviation industry’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. At CAAF/3 today, senior representatives from the eight consortium entities signed a strategic collaboration agreement to kickstart the Air-CRAFT initiative.

Potential research topics at Air-CRAFT include environmental impact assessments, feedstock and process optimization, and techno-economic assessments. Air-CRAFT will also establish relevant links with other academic and research institutions in the UAE and internationally.

The U.S. government supports Air-CRAFT being linked to the intergovernmental US-UAE ‘Partnership to Accelerate Transition to Clean Energy’ (PACE) agreement.

The consortium’s industrial and institutional partners will provide market demand, expertise, and technology to support research into the production of alternative fuels for the aviation sector and extend an open invitation to UAE and international entities to join the consortium. Air-CRAFT is already in advanced discussions with key and strategic global players to be announced in due course.

Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior VP for International Affairs, Emirates Airline, said: “Emirates supports initiatives that contribute to the deployment of SAF. We’ve contributed to the development of the UAE’s National SAF Roadmap and power-to-liquids fuel roadmaps, and believe the UAE is uniquely placed to lead in this space with its policies, technology and infrastructure capabilities. We see Air-CRAFT as a solid platform to progress the National SAF roadmap into reality, and we are proud to be one of the launch entities.”

More about the UAE’s decarbonisation efforts

The UAE is a global energy leader actively pursuing the decarbonization of its economy. It was the first country in the Gulf region to sign the Paris Agreement and the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to commit to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. It is also the host of COP28 and has declared 2023 as the Year of Sustainability in the country.

The biggest decarbonization lever available to the aviation industry is the adoption of SAF. For long-haul commercial flights in particular, no other technology platform is expected to significantly contribute to carbon neutrality goals in the next three decades at least, due to cost, technical, or regulatory barriers.

Despite its critical role in decarbonization pathways for the aviation sector, SAF is supply-constrained and needs to be scaled rapidly.

The UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure has published the National SAF Roadmap which has five principles to guide the industry in accelerating the decarbonization of the sector and transforming it into a regional hub for alternative aviation fuels. The five principles are:

  1. Establishing the Ambition: 700 million liters of SAF by 2030
  2. Accelerating SAF Technology Deployment and Innovation
  3. Developing the National Regulatory Environment for SAF
  4. Building Local Capacity to Boost In-Country Value
  5. Leading International Collaboration

The Center for Renewable and Advanced Fuel Technologies for Aviation (Air-CRAFT) will pursue the industrialization of SAF production and create an ecosystem to address the five principles of the National SAF Roadmap.

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