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Charting the Course for Southeast Asia as a Global Hub for Sustainable Aviation Fuel

By January 23, 2024No Comments

As the aviation industry needs to decarbonize air travel and address its significant contribution to CO2 emissions, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) emerges as a beacon of hope for a cleaner aviation future. However, despite its transformative potential, challenges in adoption and scaling persist.

The current adoption of SAF remains modest, standing at less than 0.1 percent in the aviation fuel mix. The industry also faces challenges related to limited supply, feedstock restrictions, and high production costs.

Highlighting SAF’s transformative potential at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28 UAE) in December 2023, Aika Yuri Winata, General Manager of Green Energy, Biofuel Feedstock & Business Development at Apical, championed SAF’s ability to propel aviation towards a net-zero future. She also highlighted the potential for Southeast Asian nations to play a key role in scaling up SAF production.

The aviation industry has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but many of the technologies required to achieve this do not yet exist at commercial scale. SAF, on the other hand, is cutting carbon emissions now, and is compatible with existing planes and fuel infrastructure, meaning it has a key role to play in reducing the environmental impact of air travel.

However, limited supply and concerns over the impact feedstock might have on food prices have meant adoption of SAF remains low. At COP28 UAE, Aika highlighted the potential for six ASEAN countries to supply over 10.4 million metric tons of organic waste and residue oil annually for SAF production. This would increase supply and, because the feedstock is organic waste, avoids the need for additional farmland while contributing to a more circular economy.

Aika also pointed to increasing government incentive schemes and blending mandates as a possible driver of demand, but called for international alignment to streamline the process.

It’s also important for consumers to signal their demand for SAF in order to encourage production expansion and achieve economies of scale, said Aika. Without certainty from airlines and their passengers the sector is less likely to see the necessary investment to eventually bring SAF costs down to parity with conventional jet fuel.

Aika underscored the importance of sustainable feedstock sourcing, including traceability. “To achieve this objective would require creating strong building blocks such as the establishment of sustainable standards and certification systems, transparency and traceability mechanisms, and quality and handling methods,” said

Global Collaboration for Greener Skies

As one of the world’s largest processors of vegetable oil, Apical is on a mission to transform into a prominent provider of second-generation biofuel feedstock. Partnering with Cepsa, Spain’s second-largest oil company, Apical aims to construct the largest second-generation biofuel plant in Southern Europe, with a production capacity of 500,000 tonnes per annum. Upon completion in 2026, Apical will supply agricultural waste and residue as feedstock for SAF production, contributing to a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

By leveraging abundant feedstock resources and adopting comprehensive policies, the region can become a hub for sustainable aviation fuel production. With concerted efforts from governments, industry players, and consumers, Southeast Asia can chart the course for greener skies and lead the way in decarbonizing air travel.