Singapore’s acting transport minister sees sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as essential for the green future of air travel, and has laid out three focus areas to support its broader development.

Citing IATA figures, Chee Hong Tat notes that the Asia-Pacific will be the fastest growing air travel market over the next two decades, growing at a rate of 4.5%, outpacing the global average of 3.3%.

Changi Jewel

Source: Changi Airport Group

A 20-month pilot proramme explored the deployment of SAF at Singapore’s Changi airport

Given this growth rate and the aspiration of attaining net-zero emissions by 2050, it is key that different parties work together to develop SAF as air travel continues to grow.

“The supply of SAF globally is currently less than 1% of prevailing global demand,” says Chee. “Even after accounting for projected SAF production capacity in 2030, capacity needs to increase by about 30 times to meet the demand in 2050 – this is how big the gap is.

”It is therefore critical that we catalyse the production of SAF to increase global supply, so that we can meet our goal of growing sustainably and eventually achieving net-zero emissions.”

Chee made the remarks in an address to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines 67th Assembly of Presidents, which is taking place in Singapore. Sustainability and SAF are key themes at this year’s event. 

While airlines have expressed willingness to adopt SAF, they have complained about a severe shortfall in supply. Organisations such as AAPA and IATA have been outspoken in their calls for greater availability of the fuel. They feel that government policy and industrial support are necessary to make SAF viable for airlines.

Chee laid out three areas for collaboration, the first of which is sending “a strong and credible demand signal” that prompts fuel producers in the Asia-Pacific to invest in SAF.

“Some countries or regions like the US have introduced subsidies for fuel producers,” he says.

“Others, like the European Union, have decided to impose mandates, and yet others like the UK are exploring a combination of mandates and incentives. Each of us must consider our own circumstances… and come to a conclusion collectively on what works best for us.”

Second, he says the Asia-Pacific needs a scientific process to validate the sustainability of SAF feedstocks, including a controversial resource that is plentiful in Southeast Asia: palm oil.

While acknowledging that feedstocks such as palm oil “may not be as widely accepted in some parts of the world due to perceived environmental risks,” Chee feels that it is essential to explore all options given the global scarcity of SAF.

Finally, Chee says new pathways are required for SAF production, diversifying from the primary source of SAF today, hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), made from a primary feestock of waste oils and fats.

While HEFA is the most commercially viable pathway now, there is insufficient feedstock to meet global SAF demand by 2050, which will push the cost of SAF up.

“We must therefore push for the production of SAF via new pathways, such as alcohol-to-jet or gasification,” says Chee.

 “I understand some producers are also looking at SAF production using algae… so I think we we need to continue investing in R&D and conducting trials on the use of SAF via these pathways.”

Singapore recently completed a 20-month pilot programme to explore deployment of SAF at Singapore’s Changi airport, which will help inform the country’s planned Singapore Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint.