The Inauguration of Sustainable Aviation Fuel for Commercial Flights

The Inauguration of Sustainable Aviation Fuel for Commercial Flights

On Friday, 27 October 2023, Indonesia marked a significant milestone by launching its inaugural commercial flight powered by jet fuel blended with palm oil. As the leading global producer of palm oil, Indonesia aims to promote the extensive adoption of biofuels to reduce dependence on traditional fuel imports. The national airline, Garuda Indonesia (“Garuda”), undertook this historic flight using a Boeing 737-800NG aircraft, transporting over 100 passengers from the capital city of Jakarta to Surakarta, covering a distance of approximately 550 kilometres (342 miles).

Earlier in the month, Garuda conducted various tests, including a test flight, to assess the new biofuel. In August, they also conducted an engine ground test. The blended jet fuel, which combines palm oil, is created by state-owned PT Pertamina (“Pertamina”) at its Cilacap refinery. This fuel is produced using hydro-processed esters and fatty acid (HEFA) technology and is derived from refined bleached deodorized palm kernel oil. Pertamina has stated that the palm-derived fuel emits fewer greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming when compared to traditional fossil fuels. Countries that produce palm oil advocate for its incorporation into sustainable aviation fuel (“SAF”) production as a feedstock.

Alfian Nasution, being the Director of at Pertamina mentioned that “In 2021, Pertamina successfully produced 2.0 SAF in its Cilacap unit using co-processing technology and was made of refined bleached deodorized palm kernel oil with production capacity 1,350 kilolitres per day.” Although numerous countries raised concerns about an increase in deforestation to produce palm oil from plantations, experts have claimed that the aviation sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and is actively seeking methods to reduce its carbon footprint by exploring alternative fuel options. It would require the aviation industry to consume some 450 billion litres of SAF a year by 2050, if the fuel is to account for around 65% of the mitigation needed to achieve net-zero targets.

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