Singapore Airlines looks to biofuels as it becomes latest airline to join Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group
Thu 15 Sept 2011 – Singapore Airlines has become the latest member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) that was set up in 2008 to accelerate the development and commercialisation of lower-carbon renewable aviation fuels derived from environmentally and socially sustainable sources. This now brings the number of airlines to have joined the group to 23, which collectively represents around 15% of total global aviation fuel demand. SAFUG receives support and advice from environmental organisations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Meanwhile, Australian renewable biofuels company Jatenergy, which has supplied Indonesian-sourced jatropha oil for SAFUG member Lufthansa’s biofuel programme, says it is struggling to meet demand.
Members of SAFUG pledge to use only verified bio-derived aviation fuel that has met a number of environmental and socioeconomic criteria, including non-competition with food and water, and avoids biodiversity impacts. Other criteria include that total lifecycle emissions from plant growth, harvesting, processing and end-use should be significantly lower than fossil-based fuels, and land and eco systems should not be cleared and converted for growing crops and plants for jet biofuel development. In developing economies, biofuel projects are required to include provision for outcomes that improve socioeconomic conditions for small-scale farmers and do not require involuntary displacement of local populations.
“We are pleased to be the newest member of SAFUG,” said Ng Chin Hwee, Singapore Airlines’ Executive Vice- President Human Resources and Operations. “This is in line with our longstanding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving the efficiency of our operations.
“It will take time to research and develop alternative fuels that meet the stringent safety requirements of civil aviation and at the same time are commercially viable. But through SAFUG, which brings together both airlines and aircraft manufacturers, we hope to be one step closer.”
The airline says joining SAFUG is amongst a number of green initiatives it is making to improve fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. These include airframe and engine maintenance programmes, efficient route planning and flight operations procedures, green flights under the Asia and Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE) programme and onboard weight-saving initiatives.
Still in Asia, Australian energy company Jatenergy has revealed it has sold 200 tonnes of crude jatropha oil at US$1,000 per tonne from its joint venture operations with Indonesia-based PT Waterland International for use by Lufthansa. The oil was sent to Neste Oil in Finland for refining and blending into jet fuel before delivery to Lufthansa for the series of commercial flights now taking place between Hamburg and Frankfurt.
The CEO of Jatenergy, Phil Hodgson, said: “We can’t produce enough jatropha oil at the moment to meet demand. Apart from sales to airlines such as Lufthansa, there is also interest from power generators and traditional biodiesel producers at prices linked to vegetable oils such as palm oil.”
Hodgson said the price of palm oil had this year ranged between $1,000 and $1,250 per tonne, with his company’s average ex-works production costs around $450 per tonne, or $65 per barrel.
Airlines are currently paying around $1015 per tonne for conventional jet kerosene, or $129 per barrel. Lufthansa has said it paid more than double the jet kerosene price for the 1,600 tonnes of 50/50 blended fuel it sourced from Neste Oil for its biofuel programme. In addition to jatropha, the Lufthansa biofuel is also made of camelina and animal fats.