US firms seal aviation biofuels deal

Enviva and Alder Fuels are combining on the long-term supply of biofuels for aviation.

Under the agreement, Enviva, a US producer of wood biomass, will supply up to 750,000 tonnes per year of what it said is sustainably sourced forest by-products such as treetops and tree limbs to Alder.

Alder, in turn, is building a facility in the US Southeast to make an energy-dense liquid that can be refined into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). They expect the agreement to begin in 2024.

The biomass under the deal can make about 37 million gallons a year of SAF, a replacement for petroleum-based jet fuel, and is understood to be the largest such US agreement to date.

Thomas Meth, president of Enviva, said about half of the timber harvest is a by-product, much of which can supply facilities to make SAF. A decline in the North American paper industry during the digital age has freed up some of that woody biomass by-product for fuel making, he suggested.

The White House wants to cut aviation’s carbon emissions by 20% by 2030, with a goal of boosting SAF production to 3 billion gallons per year by 2030, and to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand of about 35 billion gallons a year by 2050.

The ground-breaking climate law President Joe Biden signed last month boosted tax credits for making SAF, though there are suggestions from the industry that further incentives will be needed in order to meet those goals.