Collaborate to spur SAF global production, Singapore calls on Asia Pacific neighbours

Technicians check on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 plane at Singapore Changi Airport in Singapore on October 24, 2020. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

SINGAPORE: Singapore is calling for Asia Pacific countries to collaborate to spur the global production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for the region’s airline industry to meet the net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

Singapore’s acting transport minister Chee Hong Tat suggested three areas where Asia Pacific countries could work together, including sending a strong and credible demand signal to fuel producers to invest more in the SAF production in the region.

“Some countries or regions like the United States have introduced subsidies for fuel producers. Others like the European Union have decided to impose mandates, and yet others like the United Kingdom are exploring a combination of mandates and incentives.

“We must carefully consider what works best for us in our region, taking into consideration our operating context,” he said in an opening speech at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) 67th Assembly of Presidents here today.

Chee said the second and third areas that Asia Pacific countries could collaborate on include establishing a scientifically driven process to validate the sustainability of SAF feedstock and drive and support new pathways to produce SAF.

One of the SAF feedstock that is currently being validated is the palm by-products and residues.

Chee said the palm by-products and residues may not be as widely accepted in some parts of the world due to perceived environmental risks, although they are recognised under the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation (CORSIA) regime.

He said it is important for Asia Pacific countries to collaborate to promote an evidence-based approach in determining feedstock and fuel acceptability, to accelerate and scale-up SAF production in a manner which is environmentally sustainable.

“I want to be quite clear that we’re not dismissing the concerns over palm by-products and residues because the way in which these products are being produced needs to be verified to be environmentally sustainable.

“My view is that it is not the plant that makes the difference. It is how you produce the fuel that makes the difference. So, whether it is palm or some other plants, it is how you produce the fuel that ultimately determines whether it is environmentally sustainable or not,” Chee added.

Currently, the global supply of SAF is about one per cent of the prevailing global demand.

Chee said Singapore is studying the recommendation by the International Advisory Panel (IAP), set up by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), on the adoption of SAF mechanism.

The IAP is a joint-effort between CAAS and Singapore’s Transport Ministry, formed in February 2022, to introduce the Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint to guide Singapore’s effort to make greener air travel viable and accessible to all.

Chee said the aim of the mechanism is to give assurance to fuel producers to increase the supply of SAF at Singapore Changi Airport from production facilities in Singapore and the region.

“But this could result in higher costs for airlines and passengers, and needs to be balanced against the economic impact to the Changi Air Hub and to the airlines.”

“We cannot pursue sustainability single-mindedly without considering the significant cost impact on the industry.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also called on the Asia Pacific region to move rapidly towards the use of SAF.

IATA deputy director general Conrad Clifford said IATA has been actively supporting airlines in the region for their transition to SAF.

“But ramping up the use of SAF goes far beyond the efforts of airlines alone. It requires close cooperation among different industry sectors, from agencies overseeing energy production and transition, fuel producers and suppliers, to the airlines,” he said.

Conrad added that governments in the region must also introduce policies to ensure sufficient SAF supply and enable the uptake by airlines by providing incentives for example.

“Governments should set up comprehensive consultation processes that involve all stakeholders to discuss how the industry can transition to SAF. And a transition from consultation to action, in the form of a task force or working group, for example, will be vital,” he said.