Philippines makes headway in decarbonizing aviation

Danessa Rivera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is making headway in pursuing decarbonization in the commercial aviation sector with the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.

In a report, the USDA said the Philippine aviation industry has started recovering last year from the slump at the height of the COVID pandemic that disrupted transportation.

“Demand for jet fuel is on its way to reach the pre-pandemic level, providing much opportunity for SAF as a better fuel for decarbonization,” it said.

SAF is an environmentally sustainable alternative to fossil jet fuel. It uses a variety of sources, including used vegetable oils, household waste, waste gases, animal fats, forestry residue, and even CO2 captured directly from the air.

The USDA said SAF could be used as a direct replacement for fossil jet fuel as it is chemically similar and can be safely mixed with regular jet fuel to varying degrees.

It is compatible with existing jet engines and fueling infrastructure, requires zero additional investment, and does not have any negative impact on performance or maintenance. SAF can also use existing infrastructure for transportation, storage, and distribution at airports.

In line with this, the USDA said the Philippines shows initiatives in addressing the effects of climate change because of domestic and international aviation.

Supporting this effort is the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) collaborating with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to address aviation’s impact on the environment.

The ICAO adopted Resolution A37-19, which aims to reduce the aviation emissions’ contribution to climate change.

“The CAAP supports the policy of ICAO, Department of Transportation, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Climate Change Commission,” the USDA said.

While SAF is not specifically mentioned in the Renewable Energy Act and Biofuels Act of the Philippines, preliminary discussions were done on this last month.

“The Department of Energy plays a role in the implementation of the renewable energy policy. There were initial discussions on SAF on December 2022, and developments on SAF initiatives in the country are expected to continue,” the USDA said.

Apart from government, local airlines have also charted initiatives to fly green.

The USDA cited Cebu Pacific (CEB), which started to use SAF in its Airbus 320neo, with its ninth aircraft using SAF received on Jan. 1 from the Airbus Hamburg facility in Germany.

“There are reports that CEB is expecting 10 brand new Airbus NEO planes in 2023. To date, CEB has 55 Airbus planes which can be fueled with SAF in its fleet,” it said.

CEB first used SAF in May last year, making it the first low-cost airline to incorporate SAF into its operations.

In September, CEB signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Shell Eastern Petroleum to make SAF more widely available.

On Sept. 28 last year, CEB operated its first commercial passenger flight from Singapore to Manila using SAF produced by Neste in Singapore, and supplied by Shell Eastern Petroleum at Changi International Airport.

The neo Airbus is certified to operate with a 50 percent SAF blend, and Airbus is committed to enabling the use of up to 100 percent SAF by 2030.

“CEB seeks to further utilize SAF by launching green routes in approximately three years. One challenge, however, is the high price, making it uncertain if the higher use of SAF will impact CEB’s low-cost business model,” the USDA said.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is also working toward developing sustainable fuel for its airline fleet, the US agency cited.

“PAL supports the zero-emission initiative of the International Air Transportation Association (IATA). PAL is already working on its plan to incorporate SAF into its operations,” it said.

“PAL began its process on net zero goal by shifting to renewable energy for the electricity supply of its major offices and has started working on the potential use of SAF to power its fleet,” the USDA said.

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