The University of Bordeaux, in collaboration with Bordeaux Airport and the Bordeaux University Foundation, has launched a unique initiative to promote the transition of the air transport sector

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On 14th February, industrialists and academics met with the University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux Airport, and the Bordeaux University Foundation.

On 14th February, industrialists and academics met with the University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux Airport, and the Bordeaux University Foundation as part of the launch committee for "SAF: Towards Certified, Traceable, Sustainable Aviation Fuels Produced in New Aquitaine, Using Local Resources, to Serve the French Aeronautical Industry" project, which is due to run for 4 years, with the first results expected in the next 12 months.

Rolling out positive impact solutions

SAF, or Sustainable Aviation Fuels, are alternatives to fossil kerosene, produced from bio-sourced or synthetic resources.

Despite being identified as crucial for the aviation sector's transition and challenges, the use of SAF remains limited due to their higher cost, complex logistics, and acceptability challenges. Indeed, there are still many questions surrounding the effective reduction of the carbon footprint, the origin of the resources and their availability (feedstock) to meet needs without affecting priority uses such as food.

"Aviation currently accounts for between 2.5 and 3% of global CO2 emissions. In the public interest, we need to share our industrial and academic visions in order to implement the most effective SAF solutions both now and in the future," explains Michel Dubarry, President of the Fondation Bordeaux Université, who was instrumental in initiating the project led by the University of Bordeaux.

"By 2030, European regulations will mandate a 6% inclusion of SAF in total fuel consumption. At constant traffic levels, this would amount to 6 million litres for Bordeaux Airport alone, in contrast to the 500,000 litres currently being used. With the resources available in our region to supply traceable SAF solutions and reduce our carbon footprint, Bordeaux Airport is poised to set an example for regional airports," explains Simon Dreschel, Chairman of Bordeaux Airport's Management Board.

Providing scientific solutions to industrial, logistical and agronomic challenges

Spearheaded by the University of Bordeaux, in association with Bordeaux INP and INRAE, the aim of the project is to analyse and support the emergence of local industrial sectors that are as virtuous as possible, by setting up a unique centre of scientific expertise:

  • Specialists in the economics of innovation will map the players, solutions, and government support policies to determine the opportunities and constraints, both perceived and real (cost, availability of resources, regulations, acceptability, etc.).
  • Experts in production engineering will develop a digital twin model for defining and managing supply chains that are efficient, competitive, and have low CO2 emissions, taking into account supply, demand, available logistics links and uncertainties (climatic, social, geopolitical, etc.).
  • Thanks to a Relay Cropping experiment led by a renowned expert in forests and agro-ecology, the team will also study the potential of the local agro-industrial sector that does not compete with the food industry and can generate new income for farmers while promoting carbon sequestration in the soil (Initiative 4/1000) and limiting the use of plant protection products.

The role of researchers is to provide scientific and technological solutions to socio-economic sectors, but also, in a holistic approach, to enlighten industrial partners, citizens and politicians about the possibilities and limits of the proposed solutions in terms of decarbonisation, social impact or societal impact.

The aim is to work simultaneously on the development of several industrial sectors, from the production of biosourced or synthetic resources, to their processing/refining, storage and aircraft refuelling. The objective is not necessarily to develop new SAF production technologies, but rather to provide scientific analyses and results in response to the underlying industrial, logistical and agronomic challenges.

"The university is, by its very nature, a place where knowledge is developed and disseminated, a place for training and a place for debate. This project illustrates our strategy of innovation and support for change.  It is also part of our plan to collaborate with socio-economic stakeholders and local authorities to develop roadmaps for emerging sectors such as sustainable propulsion," explains Etienne DUGUET, Vice-President of Innovation at the University of Bordeaux.

Carry out the work as part of a collective effort to serve the region, in line with the challenges of transition in the Aeronautics Industry

The project is being launched with the sponsorship support of Bordeaux Airport, Airbus, EDF, Elyse Energy, Groupe Socatra, Suez and Terega, all of which have shown their commitment to the public interest. They will monitor the project as part of a steering committee led by academics and chaired by Jean-Baptiste DJEBBARI, former Minister Delegate for Transport. This steering committee will be able to expand or invite key players who also wish to contribute to the project, financially and/or by providing their expertise (TotalEnergies, Avril, with its subsidiary Saipol, Air France-KLM, Dassault Aviation, Rolls Royce, Syklea, ADI Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Aerospace Valley, BAAS - Bordeaux Aquitaine Aéronautique et Spatial, Invest In Bordeaux, etc.). The actions are intended to be carried out and shared with all the manufacturers in the future sectors (producers, processors, transporters, users), institutional players and civil society. The aim is to provide crucial knowledge to develop decision-making tools for the design, sizing and future management of SAF industries. In an era of significant international growth for these industries, our region and its players have the opportunity and ambition to become a reference centre in terms of reducing the carbon footprint. Eventually, the solutions identified could be replicated in other regions, to the benefit of the French Aerospace Industry.

"Jean-Baptiste DJEBBARI, Chairman of the project's steering committee, explained at the launch meeting: "Organising this sustainable aviation fuel sector, with all its different technologies, with the aim of industrialising them in France and Europe within a timeframe compatible with our climate commitments, is the objective of the action we are trying to take together."

Project coordinators

-     Vincent FRIGANT, Professor of Economics at Bordeaux Sciences Economiques (BSE - University of Bordeaux), economist, specialist in innovation and industry

-     Mamadou Kaba TRAORÉ, Professor of Production Engineering and Deputy Director of the Materials and Systems Integration Laboratory (IMS - University of Bordeaux, CNRS, Bordeaux INP), production engineer, specialist in digital twins

-     Sylvain DELZON, Research Director in Ecophysiology at the Biodiversity Genes Community laboratory (BioGeCo - INRAE, University of Bordeaux), specialist in forestry and agro-ecology.