5 December 2023

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Singapore launches sustainable aviation fund, while Malaysia Airlines sees rapid regional growth in SAF from 2025

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will establish a S$50 million ($37m) investment fund to support new programmes or initiatives that progress the nation’s ambitions to become a sustainable air transport hub. The Aviation Sustainability Programme will provide selected applicants with funding towards delivering measures that help to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions, build sustainable operational capabilities or unite industry partners to help create a sustainable aviation ecosystem. Sector-wide projects will be subsidised by as much as 70% and company-level projects by up to 50% as part of Singapore’s development of a Sustainable Aviation Blueprint, which is due to be released later this year. The investment programme coincides with an assessment by the flag carrier of neighbouring Malaysia that South-East Asian nations will substantially expand the production of sustainable aviation fuels from 2025 to narrow the current large gap in decarbonisation capabilities between Asia-Pacific markets and both the US and Europe.  

Singapore is growing its capabilities to decarbonise aviation not only to reduce harmful emissions from the sector but also to leverage new low-or-no-emission initiatives for competitive gain as it seeks to strengthen its position as a regional aviation hub. In September last year, an International Advisory Panel (IAP) on Sustainable Air Hub submitted to the CAAS a detailed report containing 15 initiatives to help decarbonise airline, airport and air traffic management operations. The final report will list medium-term targets to 2030 and longer-term measures to 2050, along with enabling pathways.   

“Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we want to build sustainability as a new competitive advantage for the Singapore Air Hub,” said Han Kok Juan, Director General of CAAS. “The new $50 million programme is a response to industry feedback and will provide a much-needed boost to our effort to decarbonise. It will help alleviate investment costs and catalyse and accelerate company-level projects. It will also facilitate sector-wide risk pooling, capability building and collaboration, which will be how we can distinguish ourselves from other air hubs.”

In 2019, said CAAS, operations at Singapore’s airports created 297.5 ktCO2, or around 0.7% of the country’s domestic carbon emissions, while air operators accounted for 17.6 MtCO2, a 2.8% share of all carbon emissions from international aviation.

Singapore’s primary gateway, Changi Airport, is already engaged with partners including Singapore Airlines and its low-cost brand Scoot, Exxon Mobil, renewable fuels producer Neste and state investment company Temasek in a trial of sustainable aviation fuels. It is also investigating other initiatives including the production and supply of hydrogen fuels for future generations of aircraft. As well, CAAS has signed aviation accords with New Zealand, the US, the UK, and Japan which include collaboration on measures that can help to decarbonise air transport between those markets and Singapore. The Singapore government has also signed an agreement with ICAO through which Singapore will provide and receive assistance, capacity building and training (ACT) as part of ICAO’s ACT-SAF programme.

There are three key conditions for participation in the new Aviation Sustainability Programme. For applicants to qualify, they must meet at least one of the criteria – reduce energy use and demonstrate a reduction of at least 10% in carbon emissions; develop and test new service offerings that enhance the ability of companies to operate more sustainably; or bring together aviation ecosystem partners for R&D, green certification or standards development, and foster knowledge transfer.

Examples cited by CAAS of eligible proposals include the adoption of novel or more energy-efficient airport systems or equipment, more efficient and sustainable airport processes such as faster aircraft turnaround times or improved airside vehicle operations, and testing cleaner energy sources such as new alternative or low carbon fuels. CAAS will conduct its first call for proposals in April, with information available to applicants by email.

In neighbouring Malaysia, a senior executive of Malaysia Aviation Group said South-East Asian nations lagged other more developed markets in SAF production “by about a decade,” but would rapidly catch up from 2025.

Philip See, the company’s Group Chief Sustainability Officer and CEO Loyalty and Travel Solutions, told GreenAir that in their second full year of a formal sustainability programme, Malaysia Airlines and its sibling companies – Malaysia Airlines Cargo and regional subsidiary Firefly –  had performed 18 international, regional and domestic flights using SAF. 

“Last year, our SAF flights were a bit ad hoc to gauge customer comfort with the concept,” he said. “We want to move away from one-off SAF flights and beyond one-year to multi-year agreements. Our goal now is to build our operational depth of experience.

“We want to progress to something more structured and to start looking at issues such as procurement and SAF supply chain. We also have to address the local feedstock challenges we have in the region, but it’s not going to be done in the immediate term of one to two years.

“My view is that we are behind the US and Europe by about a decade but if we mobilise, we can narrow that gap relatively quickly. ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has a lot more work to do but we are very fast adopters. Asian SAF production will begin to take root beyond 2025 in my estimation.”   

See said the pace of SAF scale-up in the ASEAN region would be driven by government policies in member nations, particularly if blending mandates were applied. He also acknowledged the establishment by renewable fuels company Neste of a major SAF production facility in Singapore and said a key benefit in Asia would be logistics. But, he added, “there must still be SAF availability.”

Malaysia Airlines has worked closely with the Malaysian global energy company Petronas to procure blended SAF, but increasingly will work with other partners to source the fuel internationally. As part of the oneworld global airline alliance, Malaysia Airlines is bound by the goal of the alliance that by 2030, 10% of the jet fuel used by its member airlines will be blended SAF. In addition to its growing commitment to SAF, Malaysia Airlines has introduced a range of operational initiatives to help reduce carbon emissions from its flight and ground operations. The airline is also preparing to introduce 20 new Airbus A330-200 neo jets and 25 Boeing 737 MAX narrowbodies, which respectively are up to 11% and 14% more fuel efficient than the older versions they will replace. 

Top photo: Singapore Changi Airport

Bottom photo: In December 2021, Malaysia Airlines, in partnership with Petronas and Neste, operated its first SAF flight

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