RSAF, SIA Engineering Company take delivery of sustainable aviation fuel

The developments come just days after Singapore Airlines said all its flights will begin using sustainable aviation fuel from the third quarter of this year. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Singapore Airlines Engineering Company (SIAEC) have taken delivery of the first shipment of sustainable aviation fuel amid an effort to reduce emissions from the aviation sector.

Oil and gas giant Shell said on Thursday (Feb 17) that it had just delivered the fuel to RSAF and SIAEC, thus becoming the first supplier of sustainable aviation fuel to Singapore.

It said the fuel supplied is made from waste products and sustainable feedstocks blended with conventional fuel.

Ms Doris Tan, head of Shell Aviation in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, said the firm was unable to disclose more details about the deals owing to commercial sensitivity.

Shell also said in a statement on Thursday morning that it has completed the upgrading of its Singapore facility to enable the blending of sustainable aviation fuel.

It said that this will make distribution of the fuel in the region more effective and contribute to quicker decarbonisation of the aviation sector.

SIAEC said in a statement later on Thursday that it had conducted a successful trial using sustainable aviation fuel for engine tests. The tests were conducted on a Rolls-Royce engine model used to power the Airbus A380 planes.

They showed that engines that were running with 38 per cent blended sustainable aviation fuel produced 32 per cent lower carbon emissions compared with conventional fossil jet fuel.

Such sustainable aviation fuel is approved for use in aircraft operating today only when blended in a ratio of up to 50 per cent with conventional jet fuel.

The developments come just days after Singapore Airlines said all its flights will begin using sustainable aviation fuel from the third quarter of this year - also a first for the national carrier.

Under the one-year pilot, Finnish energy giant Neste will provide ExxonMobil with 1.25 million litres of undiluted fuel made from waste materials, which the oil and gas company will then blend and deliver to Changi Airport, reducing carbon emissions by about 2,500 tonnes.

In a further boost to sustainable aviation fuel efforts here, Neste said on Thursday it will further expand its operations to include a research and development centre in Science Park II in Buona Vista.

It already has a refinery for sustainable aviation fuel made from used cooking oil and waste animal fats. The new centre should help diversify its raw materials.

Neste plans to hire about 40 researchers and other professionals for it by 2025. The centre will be operational next year.

Neste's executive vice-president for renewable aviation Thorsten Lange said these are particularly important for the aviation industry as electric flight for passenger and cargo planes is still a distant prospect.

"Electrification and weight is a very critical combination, unlike other modes of transport, like road transport that can be quite quickly electrified, so we need drop-in solutions. Sustainable aviation fuels reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 per cent," he said.

"There has been interest from Japan, New Zealand, Korea. Asia might be slightly later than other places now but they are usually much faster - in two or three years, it could well be ahead of the curve."

Other aerospace players are going further in their bid to reach net-zero emissions. Aviation currently produces around 2.1 per cent of all human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, although the industry is fast growing with more households worldwide entering the middle class.

Brazilian aerospace company Embraer on Wednesday said it has partnered Norwegian airline Wideroe and engine maker Rolls-Royce to study what they called a "conceptual zero-emission regional aircraft".

The one-year study will look beyond sustainable aviation fuel at other potential solutions, including all-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and hydrogen-fuelled gas turbine powered aircraft.

These are at the moment a distant prospect. Even now, sustainable aviation fuel in planes for safe flight is capped at 50 per cent and so must be blended with conventional jet fuel.

Industry players at the ongoing Singapore Airshow said regulatory frameworks are still the most important, as they would get all airlines to use sustainable aviation fuels without any of them profiting unfairly by going for cheaper, more conventional options.

Airports also have a role to play. They could, for instance, prioritise or give incentives to airlines that use sustainable aviation fuels.

Mr Damien Caze, director-general of the French Civil Aviation Authority said Covid-19 has accelerated the transition to a decarbonised aviation sector.

"There is a lot of momentum in Europe now, but we know that we are only a part of the world. While respecting the different regimes and development of different countries, we share the same world so we have to make the same efforts," he said.

"Its very amazing to see how we have all been changing during the Covid-19 crisis and I can feel the desire to finance the environmental transition very strongly here."

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