Vianney Vales, CEO of Wastefront AS, the Norwegian company building a Waste-to-Fuel business in Sunderland, tells us about the significance of Sustainable Aviation Fuel

The UK Government’s plan to ensure 10 per cent of all jet fuel used in flights leaving the UK comes from Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) by 2030 is a significant boost to the region’s green economy.

The SAF mandate, unveiled last month and pending parliamentary approval, is set to become law in January 2025, making it one of the world’s pioneering initiatives in sustainable aviation. However, the challenge lies in insufficient SAF feedstock and skyrocketing demand, which currently far exceeds both present and projected supply.

Today, total global SAF supply stands at no more than two million metric tons (mt), while SAF demand is growing at a 45 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), with more than 40 airlines already publicly committed to using around 13 million mt of SAF by 2030. In order to meet the government's SAF mandate, cost effective solutions must be brought to market.

That’s the view of Vianney Vales, CEO of Wastefront AS, the Norwegian company building an industry-leading, fully circular, business in the North East.

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Wastefront is on a fast-track pathway to produce ultra-low-cost SAF, by converting waste tyres into tyre derived oil (TDO), and subsequently processing TDO into SAF. The first commercial plant, which is shovel-ready and set to begin construction at the Port of Sunderland, will be one of Europe’s largest Waste-to-Fuel facilities, starting TDO production in 2026.

In addition to addressing the SAF supply issue, Wastefront also tackles waste tyre pollution. Once at full capacity, the plant in Sunderland will process up to 80 million waste tyres per year, preventing them from ending in landfills or being incinerated.

Vales said: “The SAF mandate is hugely significant for the UK aviation industry and a clarion call for the North East. Working alongside our partners at the Port of Sunderland, we are on a pathway to bring ultra-low-cost sustainable aviation fuels to market.

"With production expected to commence in 2026, our plant in Sunderland will be leading a new generation of pathways to clean transport fuels. Not only do we aid the UK’s transition to sustainable air travel, we also address the growing problem of waste tyres in the UK. Our facility represents a significant investment in the region and will create scores of highly skilled jobs.”

Wastefront’s first commercial plant in Sunderland is fully permitted and expected to start construction in 2024. The first phase of the plant will be fully operational by 2026, while the second phase is expected to be on stream in 2027. The TDO produced in Sunderland will first be co-processed into road transport fuel or SAF in third-party refineries. At a later stage, it will be converted into SAF in dedicated facilities.

One of the primary advantages of SAF is its potential to significantly reduce lifecycle carbon emissions compared to traditional aviation fuels. The SAF produced by Wastefront will cut lifecycle carbon emissions by more than 80% “We are creating an entirely new circular economy and we are starting it in the UK, and specifically in the North East,” Vales added.

“The UK is a global industrial hub which we want to be a part of, offering strong mandates in our area of Energy Transition. Sunderland was the ideal location for our first plant due to geographical location, access to feedstock, strong local support, and an incredibly skilled workforce. We are proud to help make the North East a real powerhouse in sustainable transport development.”

Matthew Hunt, director at Port of Sunderland, said: “The production of sustainable aviation fuel opens significant opportunities for the North East.

“The market for sustainable fuels is already a multi-billion-pound industry, and with the mandate soon becoming legislation, demand is only going to continue growing. Wastefront’s facility at the port will position the North East perfectly to fully capitalise on this growth.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time for everyone involved, and we are delighted to be contributing to the UK’s ever-growing green economy.”