Jakarta, Indonesia – In a significant step toward promoting sustainable aviation and reducing fuel imports, Indonesia’s flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, successfully conducted its first commercial flight using palm oil-blended jet fuel. The historic flight took off from Jakarta, the capital city, and landed in Surakarta, covering a distance of approximately 550 kilometers (342 miles). This achievement marks Indonesia’s commitment to the use of biofuels, driven by its status as the world’s largest producer of palm oil.
Indonesia is renowned as the largest producer of palm oil globally, and this flight signifies the country’s ambition to leverage its vast palm oil resources for sustainable aviation. The aviation industry has been exploring alternatives to traditional fossil fuels to reduce its carbon footprint, and the utilization of palm oil-based jet fuel is a significant development in this endeavor.
Garuda Indonesia, a major player in the country’s aviation sector, spearheaded this landmark flight. The Boeing 737-800NG aircraft, operating under the flagship of Garuda Indonesia, carried over 100 passengers on a journey from Jakarta to Surakarta. Garuda Indonesia CEO Irfan Setiaputra expressed his enthusiasm during the event, highlighting the importance of this achievement. He stated, “We will discuss further with Pertamina, Energy Ministry, and other parties to ensure this fuel is commercially reasonable,” indicating the airline’s intent to incorporate palm oil-blended jet fuel into its operations.
The Technology Behind Palm Oil-Blended Jet Fuel:
The palm oil-blended jet fuel used for this flight is produced by Indonesian state energy firm PT Pertamina at its Cilacap refinery. It is created using hydroprocessed esters and fatty acid (HEFA) technology and is derived from refined bleached deodorized palm kernel oil. The use of this technology ensures that the biofuel meets aviation standards and provides a viable alternative to traditional jet fuel.
Environmental Benefits of Palm Oil-Based Jet Fuel:
Alfian Nasution, a director at Pertamina, highlighted their accomplishments, stating, “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 a production capacity of 1,350 kiloliters per day.” The successful production and utilization of SAF underscore the progress made in adopting renewable and environmentally friendly alternatives in the aviation sector.
The Global Push for Sustainable Aviation Fuel:
The aviation industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In response to this, the industry has been actively seeking ways to reduce its carbon footprint by incorporating alternative fuels. Experts suggest that to meet net-zero emission targets, the aviation sector will require 450 billion liters of SAF annually by 2050. Sustainable aviation fuel, like the palm oil-blended variant used in the Garuda Indonesia flight, is essential in achieving this ambitious goal.
Environmental Concerns and Trade Implications:
While palm oil-blended jet fuel offers environmental benefits, there have been concerns raised by some countries regarding the potential for deforestation linked to palm oil production. The European Union, for instance, has imposed import restrictions on palm oil due to these environmental concerns. Balancing the environmental benefits of palm oil-based SAF with the need to address deforestation and habitat destruction is a complex challenge that stakeholders in the aviation industry must address.
Indonesia’s Biofuel Mandate and Delayed Implementation:
Indonesia had previously mandated a 3% biofuel blending requirement for jet fuel by 2020. However, the full implementation of this policy has faced delays. Achieving this mandate and transitioning to greater use of sustainable aviation fuel remains a priority for the Indonesian government and key stakeholders.
The successful commercial flight using palm oil-blended jet fuel marks a significant milestone in Indonesia’s efforts to promote sustainable aviation and reduce its reliance on traditional fossil fuels. It also aligns with global initiatives to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation sector. While there are challenges to overcome, the adoption of biofuels like palm oil-based SAF is a promising step toward greener skies in the aviation industry. This innovative approach may serve as an inspiration for other countries and airlines to explore and adopt similar sustainable aviation solutions in the pursuit of a more eco-friendly future for air travel.