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The environmental and economic assessment of crop based sustainable aviation fuels by minimizing the land use change impact PhD

   School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE)

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  Dr C Miyoshi, Dr T Waine  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

An Excellent opportunity to conduct a new but urgently required research area for achieving the UK’s net zero target in 2050. Currently only one crop-based biomass certified sustainable aviation fuel is available out of eight conversion process certified to use in aviation by ICAO. A Comprehensive systematic approach with a combination of environmental technology, life cycle assessment (GREET model), cost benefit analysis, and air transport economics and modelling will be employed across different SAF scenarios. The work will contribute largely to lead the UK as a world leader by commercialising this technology at the early stage.

It is a fully funded NERC - CENTA PhD Studentship for 3.5 years. Successful home-fees-eligible candidates will receive an annual stipend, stipend, set at £17,668, plus full university fees and a research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000.

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is receiving intense consideration so as to reduce overall CO2 emissions in the short and medium term for achieving the UK’s net zero target in 2050. There are three main challenges for SAF to be successfully implemented: (1) expense (currently USD80-160 per gallon), and (2) feedstock availability, and (3) overall sustainability. In particular, cost of SAF is heavily dependent on the availability and cost of sustainable feedstock. The domestic production required to achieve the UK net zero target by increasing up to 40% of total fuels by 2030 (Sustainable Aviation, 2018). Using biofuels for SAF would require a stable, large supply of biomass, which have only a small impact on land use, water use, and biodiversity (ICAO, 2017). Therefore, the whole life cycle must be assessed to see if SAFs are truly sustainable. Particularly, the crop based SAF’s land use change (LUC) emission is a key determinant of the LCA, which is highly dependent upon the situation in which the feedstock is cultivated (Staples et al., 2014), including indirect LUC (WEF, 2020). However, increasing biomass supply from cover-crops and unused land or alternative crop systems (intercropping or multi-cropping) could offer positive externalities in terms of rural development, soil fertility and biodiversity (Bybee-Finley & Ryan, 2018).


This research aims to assess the viability of SAF by taking a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach as an entire air transport system. Three models are principally involved: land-use models, LCA, and cost benefit analysis (CBA). First, the critical and systematic state of art literature review will be conducted. Then, for the production phase, different land-use models are taken to investigate the agricultural productivity improvement without impacting or displacing existing food production. It attempts to keep a balanced agro-ecosystem: greater crop diversity promoting resilience. The required amount of SAF will be estimated by forecasting air transport traffic and carbon emissions for UK aviation. Sensitivity analysis will be conducted to assess the trade-off between conventional jet fuel and SAF. Furthermore, cost and benefit analysis will be conducted in Net Present Value by considering all stakeholders’ views including the externalities (CO2, tax revenue, and labour opportunities).

Partners and collaboration

The possible partners could be airlines and airport which aim to operate the SAF and SAF facility.

Possible timeline:

Year 1: In this period, a student has an opportunity to learn the core knowledge of both environmental and air transport agenda for establishing the foundation of this research.

Year 2: understanding of the state of art technique and the market

Year 3: assessing the validity of SAF by Life Cycle Assessment and CBA

Entry requirements

Applicants should have at least a 2:1 at UK BSc level or at least a pass at UK MSc level or equivalent in a related discipline.

How to apply

If you are eligible to apply for the Phd, please complete the online application form stating the reference No. SWEE0196 and attach the completed CENTA candidate form to your application.

For further information please contact:

Dr Chikage Miyoshi E: [Email Address Removed]

Admissions T: +44 (0)1234 758082E: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Sponsored by NERC through CENTA DTP, Cranfield University. Successful home-fees-eligible candidates will receive an annual stipend, set at £17,668 for 2022/23, paid directly to the student in monthly increments, plus full university fees (at home fee level) and a research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000.
The project is open to all applicants who meet the academic requirements, but the grant only covers fee costs for a Home (UK) award. Unless you are eligible for such a Home award, you will need to consider how you will be able to meet any shortfall in funding for tuition fees, e.g. self-funded.
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