At COP28 in the UAE, Paris' TotalEnergies and Abu Dhabi energy company Masdar conducted the first test flight to demonstrate potential for converting methanol to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), according to a Dec. 6 press release.

SAF can reduce CO2 emissions from air transportation and can be used as a drop-in fuel— a synthetic substitute for conventional petroleum— without modifying existing storage and refueling infrastructure, aircraft or engines.

The Alcohol-to-Jet Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene pathway (ATJ-SPK) was certified in 2016 as meeting international standards for jet fuel, but methanol is not in the list of specified alcohols, the release stated.  The test flight, which used a blend of aviation fuel made from olefins, will support the certification of SAF production from methanol.

The new pathway could lead to eSAF, a synthetic fuel with potential to be derived from renewable energy, and used to “meet the challenge of producing SAF worldwide to decarbonize aviation”, TotalEnergies added in the release.

“As industry and energy companies, our collective job is to work on the next generation of clean aviation fuels that could complement SAF currently produced from used cooking oil,” said Patrick Pouyanné, chairman and CEO of TotalEnergies. “This novel pathway to jet, through e-SAF, is critical to support the decarbonization of the aviation industry,”

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, Airbus, Falcon Aviation Services and technology licensor Axens also contributed to the flight.