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How Safran is helping to develop sustainable fuels


In 2022, in line with its strategy to decarbonize aviation, Safran invested in Ineratec, a German company specializing in the production of low-carbon synthetic fuels. A year later, the Group renewed its trust in the company by making another investment and, in so doing, enabled the startup to lay the foundation stone of a next-generation factory in Frankfurt. We take a look at what's at stake in this promising partnership with Yannick Bonnaire, Group SVP Innovation and CEO at Safran Corporate Ventures.

Image illustrant une planète "décarbonée" dans le creux d'une main.

How do sustainable fuels fit into Safran's decarbonization strategy?

Safran considers the sustainable fuel (SAF) sector as a vital lever to meet its decarbonization goals in air transport. Its main advantage compared with other solutions is that it can be used in our existing engines. We talk about "drop in" fuels which can be mixed with kerosene, or even potentially used pure, without any changes needing to be made to the aircraft, operations, or logistics infrastructure. 

Although the Group doesn't produce SAF, it has every intention to contribute to their development. All our engines (airplanes and helicopters) are certified to incorporate up to 50% SAF. Also, over the last few years, Safran has increased its flight tests with engines using up to 100% SAF and, in 2021, signed a major partnership to this end with Total Energies.

Building on this expertise, Safran helped prepare the ReFuelEU Aviation initiative launched by the European Commission in 2021. This agreement stipulates that from 2025, aviation fuels must incorporate at least 2% SAF. This proportion will increase every five years to reach 70% in 2050. In 2022, this commitment resulted in Safran being asked by the European Commission to head up the "aviation" domain of the Renewable and Low Carbon Fuels (RLCF) Alliance, with the aim of rolling out, on a massive scale, production of these sustainable fuels for the aviation and maritime sectors in Europe.


Why did the Group choose Ineratec for its investment in this sector?

First of all, Ineratec is undoubtedly the startup with the most advanced offer in the field of e-SAF (sustainable fuels produced from low-carbon electricity and CO2). So, even before the ReFuelEU Aviation agreement was signed, Ineratec had a well-defined roadmap and was already capable of demonstrating its technology.

Indeed, this innovative technology was one of the main reasons we decided to invest. Ineratec is working on producing next-generation SAF: synthetic fuels also known as e-fuels**. Their manufacturing process is particularly appealing because it allows for potentially carbon-neutral fuel production no longer using biomass, but instead hydrogen and CO2 (therefore, ultimately, low-carbon electricity).


Industrial power to liquid plant

Furthermore, Ineratec stands out for its manufacturing process: the company offers modular and smaller production units – a container – that can each produce a few hundred tons of e-fuel a year. So they can be transported easily and installed in different types of space, depending on the availability of CO2. 

So, with Ineratec, Safran aims to help develop the SAF sector and, at the same time, meet its own needs. Using these production units, Safran could in the future recover the CO2 emitted by its test benches and turn it into synthetic fuel. We are currently discussing how this could help meet the Group's SAF needs as early as 2024. In the same way, Ineratec's contribution is a valuable opportunity for Safran to offer airlines a variety of decarbonization solutions, giving us a significant competitive advantage. 

E-fuels are coveted by the automotive and maritime sectors, as well as the aviation industry. How do players like Ineratec plan to meet the needs of these different sectors?

The difficulty today lies in supply: production of green hydrogen and the quantity of exploitable CO2 are insufficient to meet the needs of these three sectors. 

But it's not inevitable: these investments should actually lead to rapid development in the sector. The greater the production level, the more we will be able to meet these needs. In its new factory, Ineratec plans to increase its e-fuel production from 2024: 2,500 tons per production unit each year, compared with 350 tons at the moment. This increase should continue over the following years, thanks to other investments. Ineratec is also working to increase the energy performance of its manufacturing process, currently at about 55%. 

In that respect, Safran Corporate Ventures has a particularly important role to play because its work identifies the most promising startups like Ineratec and provides some of the necessary funds (Engie New Ventures has invested alongside us) for them to achieve their full potential. 


Synthetic fuels are currently two to ten times more expensive than traditional kerosene. Will their high cost not impede their growth and their democratization?

This high price can partly be explained by a lack of industrial maturity. The proportion of low-carbon electricity is also a key element that can account for up to 80% of the product's cost. What's for sure is that the more we develop and improve the offer, the more we will be able to adjust costs. And this is exactly what our partnership with Ineratec aims to do: shift the boundaries. Our strategy involves testing solutions right now, stimulating a dynamic to enable the long-term democratization of e-fuels. 

*SAF: Sustainable Aviation Fuels. 

** Synthetic fuels are made from hydrogen designed by electrolysis of water with low-carbon electricity as well as CO2 captured in the atmosphere or in industrial fumes.


Ineratec's Frankfurt factory

On April 19, 2023, Ineratec celebrated the start of work on its new factory in Frankfurt. The factory is in a very favorable location on an industrial park near Frankfurt airport. And this isn't a coincidence: an agreement has been signed enabling Ineratec to recover the CO2 emitted by the industrial park to make its e-fuels. So it's a win-win partnership as the new factory will help decarbonize the industrial park.

Picture taken at Ineratec's Frankfurt factory - april 2023
Ineratec's Frankfurt factory - april 2023
Ineratec's Frankfurt factory - april 2023
© Safran
Picture taken at Ineratec's Frankfurt factory
Start of work on Ineratec's Frankfurt factory
Start of work on Ineratec's Frankfurt factory
© Safran

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