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Sustainable Way for Alternative Fuels and Energy In Aviation (SWAFEA)

The SWAFEA European study was initiated to investigate the feasibility and impacts of the use of alternative fuels in aviation. The goals were to develop a comparative analysis of different fuels and energy-carrier options for aviation on the basis of the available knowledge, as well as to propose a possible vision and roadmap for their deployment in order to facilitate and support future policy decisions.
Feasibility Study

Value-chain step
Full value-chain

Type of pathway

Starting time and duration
February 2009 - April 2011

Airlines, OEM, fuel producers, research

Regional scope

Involved countries


The SWAFEA study was initiated in February 2009 by the European Commission's Directorate General for Mobility and Vehicles as part of its general policy for mitigating climate change and contributing to Europe’s Energy security as well as economic growth.

The study encompassed all aspects of the possible introduction of alternative fuels in aviation using a highly multidisciplinary approach. This included technical, environmental, and economic assessments.
 The purpose of the technical component of the study was to complement available data regarding technical suitability of alternative fuels with additional investigation and testing.
The environmental and economic assessments both consisted of in-depth analyses of the impact of various fuel production pathways, from feedstock to fuel, through the entire life-cycle. The environmental component also included societal impacts of fuel production, while the economic component studied the required fuel production infrastructure in addition to the cost breakdown of various alternative fuels.
The study was carried out under the leadership of French Aerospace Research Lab ONERA, in cooperation with a consortium of twenty partners bringing together European research organizations and representatives of virtually every major stakeholder in the aviation fuel chain. Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer as well as two international entities, IATA and Concawe, also participated.
The study delivered its findings and recommendations in April 2011.



Airbus, AirFrance, Altran, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, Cerfacs, Concawe, DLR, EADS-IW, Embraer, Erdyn, Iata, Ineris, IFPEN, Onera, Plant Research International (WUR), Rolls-Royce UK and Rolls-Royce Deutschland, Shell, Snecma, University of Sheffield

Achievements to date

SWAFEA’s synthesis reports have been published on the study website

The technical assessment performed in the frame of SWAFEA aimed at complementing the existing works on Fischer-Tropsch (FT) and HEFA (hydroprocessed vegetable oils and animal fats) synthetic paraffinic kerosenes, focused on well-established processes and final products that clone crude-oil based kerosene molecules, by investigating possible solutions beyond these first candidate fuels (impact of synthetic kerosene properties, impact of blending ratio, suitability of naphtenic compounds from liquefaction, potential of FAE).
As part of the environmental assessment of alternative fuels, life cycle analysis was performed for Fischer-Tropsch fuels and HEFA for various type of feedstock evidencing that significant emissions reductions could be achieved with biofuels provided that land use change emissions were carefully controlled. Potential impacts of alternative fuels on radiative forcing through their atmospheric impacts (contrails and high altitude chemistry) were also studied.
An analysis of the potential availability of biomass for energy use up to 2050 was performed taking into account sustainability criteria in accordance with the European Directive on Renewable Energy. The analysis, although containing inherent high uncertainties, outlined the challenge associated with the highest emissions reduction target of aviation and the need for further research on more efficient biomass and processes.
Last, an economic analysis was carried out within SWAFEA, essentially on HEFA and FT biomass-to-liquid (BTL), to evaluate how biofuels compare with conventional jet fuel and which measures could be required for their deployment. The analysis concluded that neither BTL nor HEFA solutions are initially cost competitive with conventional jet fuel while in the longer term their viability depends heavily on the possibility to secure "low price" feedstock supply. Specific policy measures and incentives are thus required to initiate the deployment of biofuels.
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