Bio-Based Jet Fuels

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bio-based jet fuels, a type of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), are derived from organic matter, such as plants or algae, offering a renewable alternative to traditional petroleum-based jet fuel. These fuels are designed to be “drop-in” replacements, meaning they can be used in existing aircraft engines with minimal or no modifications, making them a practical solution for decarbonizing the current fleet.

Impact on climate action

Bio-Based Jet Fuels offer a promising avenue for Low-Carbon Aviation, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional jet fuels. By utilizing renewable resources like algae, waste oils, or agricultural residues, they mitigate the aviation industry’s environmental impact, advancing climate action with sustainable air travel solutions.


  • Sustainable Feedstocks: Bio-based jet fuels can be produced from a variety of sustainable feedstocks, including non-edible crops like jatropha and camelina, agricultural residues, used cooking oil, and algae. The selection of feedstock depends on factors like availability, cost, and environmental impact.
  • Conversion Technologies: Several conversion technologies are used to transform biomass into jet fuel, including:
    • Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA): This widely used process converts oils and fats from plants or algae into bio-based jet fuel.
    • Fischer-Tropsch (FT) Synthesis: This method converts synthesis gas (syngas), derived from biomass or other carbon sources, into liquid hydrocarbons, including jet fuel.
    • Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) Technology: This process converts ethanol, produced from sustainable sources like sugarcane or corn, into jet fuel.
  • Life Cycle Analysis: Evaluating the environmental impact of bio-based jet fuels throughout their life cycle, from feedstock production to fuel combustion, is crucial to ensure their sustainability.

TRL : 7-9

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Feedstock Development: Research focuses on identifying and developing new sustainable feedstocks for bio-based jet fuel production, prioritizing non-food crops that don’t compete with food production and have high oil or sugar yields.
  • Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology: Utilizing genetic engineering and biotechnology to optimize feedstock plants for higher oil or sugar content, faster growth rates, and improved resilience to pests and diseases.
  • Efficient Conversion Processes: Developing more efficient and cost-effective conversion processes to produce bio-based jet fuels, reducing production costs and making them more competitive with conventional jet fuel.
  • Waste Biomass Utilization: Exploring innovative ways to produce bio-based jet fuels from various waste streams, such as forestry residues, municipal solid waste, and agricultural byproducts, contributing to waste reduction and circular economy principles.
  • Integrated Biorefineries: Developing biorefineries that can produce multiple products from biomass, including bio-based jet fuel, bio-chemicals, and bio-materials, enhancing the economic viability of biofuel production.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Sustainable Feedstock Diversity
  • Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) Conversion
  • Fischer-Tropsch (FT) Synthesis Advancements
  • Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) Technology Innovation
  • Advanced Feedstock Research
  • Genetic Engineering for Feedstock Optimization
  • Biotechnology in Feedstock Enhancement
  • Conversion Process Efficiency
  • Cost-Effective Conversion Technologies
  • Waste Biomass Valorization
  • Integrated Biorefinery Development
  • High-Yield Feedstock Cultivation
  • Pest and Disease Resilience in Feedstock Plants
  • Waste Stream Utilization Strategies
  • Biomass-to-Fuel Integration
  • Multi-Product Biorefinery Concept

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Gevo:
    • Technology Focus: Gevo specializes in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. Their focus on bio-based jet fuels involves the conversion of renewable feedstocks, such as corn, into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) through innovative bioconversion processes.
    • Uniqueness: Gevo stands out for its proprietary technology that enables the production of high-performance bio-based jet fuels with a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to traditional fossil fuels. They emphasize sustainability and carbon reduction as key drivers of their innovation.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments primarily include the aviation industry, particularly airlines and aircraft manufacturers seeking to reduce their carbon emissions and comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
  • Fulcrum BioEnergy:
    • Technology Focus: Fulcrum BioEnergy specializes in converting municipal solid waste (MSW) into low-carbon transportation fuels, including bio-based jet fuels. Their innovative process involves gasification and synthesis to produce sustainable alternatives to conventional jet fuels.
    • Uniqueness: Fulcrum BioEnergy’s unique approach of utilizing waste as a feedstock for fuel production sets them apart in the bio-based jet fuel industry. They offer an environmentally friendly solution to waste management while producing renewable fuels.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include airlines, airports, and government agencies looking to reduce landfill waste and carbon emissions while promoting sustainable aviation.
  • Velocys:
    • Technology Focus: Velocys specializes in the development of microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactors for the production of synthetic fuels, including bio-based jet fuels. Their technology enables the conversion of sustainable feedstocks, such as biomass or waste, into high-quality aviation fuel.
    • Uniqueness: Velocys is unique for its focus on microchannel FT technology, which offers advantages such as improved heat transfer, enhanced mass transfer, and better control over reaction conditions, resulting in higher efficiency and product quality.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments span the aviation industry, including airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and fuel distributors seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional jet fuels to meet environmental targets and regulatory requirements.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are pioneering advancements in the production and utilization of bio-based jet fuels through innovative biochemical engineering techniques. They are exploring novel pathways for converting biomass feedstocks, such as agricultural residues and algae, into sustainable aviation fuels.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s approach involves the development of integrated biorefinery systems that efficiently convert biomass into bio-based jet fuels while maximizing resource utilization and minimizing waste generation. Their research encompasses the entire value chain, from feedstock cultivation and pretreatment to fuel synthesis and quality assurance.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based jet fuels developed at MIT have the potential to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of aviation and contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers can transition to these renewable fuels to achieve carbon neutrality and comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
  • University of Washington:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Washington are focusing on improving the production efficiency and cost-effectiveness of bio-based jet fuels using biotechnological approaches. They are exploring genetic engineering techniques to optimize the microbial fermentation of renewable feedstocks into hydrocarbon fuels with properties comparable to conventional jet fuels.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Washington’s research involves the development of genetically engineered microorganisms capable of efficiently converting sugars and other biomass-derived substrates into high-energy-density hydrocarbons suitable for aviation applications. Their approach aims to overcome the limitations of traditional biofuel production processes and enable scalable production of bio-based jet fuels.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based jet fuels produced at the University of Washington could offer a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels for the aviation industry, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on finite fossil resources. Airlines and airports can adopt these renewable fuels to achieve their sustainability goals and enhance their environmental performance.
  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Wageningen University & Research are exploring innovative thermochemical conversion processes for producing bio-based jet fuels from lignocellulosic biomass sources. They are investigating pyrolysis, gasification, and hydrothermal liquefaction technologies to convert biomass into liquid hydrocarbon fuels suitable for aviation applications.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Wageningen’s research integrates expertise in biomass valorization, process engineering, and sustainability assessment to develop economically viable and environmentally sustainable pathways for bio-based jet fuel production. They are optimizing process conditions and reactor designs to maximize fuel yield and quality while minimizing energy consumption and environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based jet fuels developed at Wageningen University & Research have the potential to revolutionize the aviation industry by providing a renewable and carbon-neutral alternative to conventional jet fuels. Airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and biofuel producers can collaborate to scale up production and commercialize these sustainable fuels, contributing to the decarbonization of air travel and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Bio-based jet fuels are already being commercially used by several airlines worldwide, blended with conventional jet fuel at various percentages. While current production volumes are relatively small compared to overall jet fuel demand, the industry is rapidly scaling up production capacity. Several airports have started offering SAF blending facilities, and numerous airlines have made commitments to increase their SAF usage in the coming years.