SAF rules of thumb

As part of work on SAF projections, CAEP experts from Washington State University, supported by experts from Hasselt University developed a set of heuristics or "Rules of Thumb" for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that could be utilized to make order of magnitude estimations related to SAF costs, investment needs and production potential that could inform policymakers and project developers.


Three SAF manufacturing technologies were assessed: Gasification Fischer-Tropsch (GFT), alcohol to jet (ATJ) and hydro-processed esters and fatty acids (HEFA). For each of the technologies, multiple feedstocks and two levels of technology maturity were assessed: nth plant and pioneer plant.


The Rules of Thumb provide the impact of feedstock cost, fuel yield, facility scale (total distillate and SAF), total capital investment (TCI) and minimum selling price (MSP) for nth plant and pioneer facility scales.



These SAF "Rules of Thumb" are intended to provide big picture trends for costs and processing technology/feedstock comparisons and could be utilized to make order of magnitude estimations. They do not provide precise cost or price information.  As such, investment or policy decisions should be based on a dedicated analysis that captures specific details related to the investment or policy.

All of the information was calculated using U.S. costs and financial assumptions.  The values will change based on regional variables. No incentives were included in the MSP values calculated.


Summary Tables 1 and 2 provide the most likely costs and facility scales based on the Techno Economic Assessment (TEA) models, existing literature values and expert opinion. All of the TEA models are based on open-source information and costs that use proprietary technology may differ significantly.


Summary Table 1 - Technology, feedstock type, yield with annual scale (total distillate) and annual SAF production at nth plant and pioneer facility scales

Processing TechnologyFeedstock
Yield*Total Distillate (million L/yr)SAF (million L/yr)
GFTForest Residues0,1840010016040
GFTAgricultural Residues
ATJIsobutanol - Low0,75100010070070
ATJIsobutanol - High0,75100010070070
HEFAVegetable Oil0,83100010054955

*(wt total distillate/wt dry feestock)


Summary Table 2: Pre-processed feedstock cost, total capital investment (TCI) and minimum selling price (MSP) for each technology and feedstock combination for nth plant and pioneer facilities.
Processing TechnologyFeedstockFeedstock Cost ($/tonne)Feedstock Feedstock Cost ($/L)TCI (million $) ​MSP ($/L) ​
GFTForest Residues125-163610631,83,3
GFTAgricultural Residues
ATJIsobutanol - Low11100.89343671,31,4
ATJIsobutanol - High14961.20424751,81,9
HEFA*Vegetable Oil809-4311081,11,2

*HEFA feedstocks are not pre-processed.


The following charts provide a graphical representation of these numbers.

Further details and the references used to develop these rules of thumb are provided in the dashboard below.
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