SINGAPORE - The sustainability of the Changi air hub, alongside its competitiveness and efficiency, will anchor its value proposition moving forward, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said on Wednesday (May 18).
He said work is under way on several fronts to reduce carbon emissions in the sector, amid the development of a sustainability blueprint by an international advisory panel.
The blueprint, which was announced in February, is expected to be ready next year. It will set sustainability goals for 2030 and 2050, with details on how to get there.
Mr Iswaran, who was responding to a question during a press conference after the two-day Changi Aviation Summit, said Singapore can and will work to reduce emissions from the sector.
This includes work in areas such as electrification, tapping renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.
An area of focus for airline operations will be in terms of sustainable aviation fuel, he added.
Such fuel is produced from renewable raw materials, such as used cooking oil or animal fat from food industry waste.
Mr Iswaran said Singapore is looking into how it can contribute to the use of sustainable aviation fuel as part of the fuel mix for planes.
"This is something that requires a systemic solution because it's not just about an airline design, because you need resources, the feedstock, the manufacturing (capabilities) and the ability to have that delivered to the fuel system in the airport," he said.
"So it is an effort that requires a systemic level of response. That is an example of the kind of things we are looking at."
Mr Iswaran said another area of work is in terms of improving the efficiency around air traffic management. If the airport and airlines are able to reduce the time that planes spend waiting to take off or land, this can make significant efficiency gains, he noted.
The drive towards sustainability in aviation is in line with Singapore's general target to achieve net zero emissions by or around 2050.
On the international front, Singapore hopes to at least show the way forward in aviation and contribute to global efforts to cut emissions in the sector, Mr Iswaran said.
Sustainable aviation fuel has been touted by experts as the most promising near-term solution to significantly reduce carbon emissions from planes.
But it is about three times more expensive than conventional jet fuel, and is not widely produced yet.
Finnish producer Neste had said at a media briefing last month that Singapore would have the world's largest sustainable aviation fuel production capacity when its Tuas facility is completed in the first half of next year.
The producer, which currently has a production capacity of 100,000 metric tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel yearly at its facility in Finland, will be able to produce up to one million metric tonnes of the fuel at its upcoming facility in Singapore.
Sir Michael Arthur, senior vice-president of The Boeing Company and president of Boeing International, told The Straits Times that Singapore is well-poised to become a key driver in the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel.
This is so as Singapore is a technologically advanced aerospace hub located in a region where demand for air travel will rapidly grow.
The proximity of countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam to Singapore will also enable the country to get the raw materials needed to produce sustainable aviation fuel, said Sir Michael.
"Anywhere that grows rice and palm oil, the waste can be used for making sustainable aviation fuel," he added.
Energy companies, the regulatory authorities, engine-makers and airplane-makers all have to work together to find a way to create sustainable aviation fuel at scale, said Sir Michael.
"It is a start-up industry, and they need help. Big players like us can help... but I do think Singapore has a leadership role in this debate."