23 July 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Collaboration to decarbonise air transport increases across the Asia-Pacific region

Momentum is building in the Asia-Pacific region around improving the sustainability of the aviation sector and the use of sustainable aviation fuels. Major rivals Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have signed a MoU to work together on a range of sustainability measures, while Vietnam Airlines has signed up to IATA’s CO2 Connect platform and recently conducted its first SAF flight, using a blend produced and supplied from Neste’s Singapore refinery. Dubai-based Emirates has also taken its first shipment in Singapore of SAF from Neste. Meanwhile, Air New Zealand has received 500,000 litres of SAF produced in China by Hong Kong energy company EcoCeres and blended by ExxonMobil. Meanwhile, Korean Air is expanding its cargo SAF programme through a new partnership with global logistics company CEVA.

The Cathay-Singapore collaboration was agreed by their respective chief executives at IATA’s recent annual general meeting in Dubai, reiterating the commitment of both carriers to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and help drive the industry’s shift to more sustainable operations.

The two will jointly press for increased use of SAF across the APAC region and look for opportunities to jointly procure the fuel at specific locations. They will also publicly promote the fuel’s key role in cleaner aviation, advocate for Asia-Pacific governments to enact SAF-supportive policies and urge the creation of a single global accounting and reporting framework to ensure that emission reductions claimed from the use of SAF are both transparent and verified.   

Additionally, Cathay and Singapore will share best practices to reduce single-use plastics, minimise waste and improve energy efficiency in ground operations.

“As part of our collaborative ethos of ‘Greener Together’ we actively seek like-minded industry leaders for strategic partnerships in transitioning to sustainable aviation,” said Cathay’s CEO, Ronald Lam. “Our collaboration with Singapore Airlines aims to accelerate and support the development of the SAF supply chain in the region, fostering a reliable SAF ecosystem to enable the industry to achieve its long-term decarbonisation goals.”

Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said his company was committed to embedding sustainable practices across all areas of the business but added the airline could not achieve all targets by acting alone. “Our partnership with Cathay signifies our mutual ambition to enhance collaboration in sustainability initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “Together we are helping to set the foundation for a more sustainable aviation industry and ensure that future generations continue to reap the benefits of air travel.” 

Also at the Dubai AGM, Vietnam Airlines joined IATA’s CO2 Connect project, through which airlines contribute operational data to the programme’s emissions calculator to help accurately quantify carbon emissions for each passenger by route flown and aircraft type.  Other participants in the programme include American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways, all of which are members of the oneworld global airline alliance.

“Reducing CO2 emissions and promoting sustainable development are top priorities for the global aviation industry,” explained IATA. “However, the measurement and reporting of CO2 emissions have been inconsistent due to the various methodologies used by different airlines.”

The CO2 Connect project creates a common platform for airlines to supply consistent calculation of aircraft CO2 emissions to enable both carriers and passengers to make environmentally informed decisions. The programme uses Recommended Practice Per Passenger CO2 Calculation Methodology (RP-1726), which assesses metrics including airline fuel measurement protocols, the CO2 allocation between passengers and cargo, and cabin class to help ensure the most accurate carbon footprint calculations.

“By participating in CO2 Connect,” said IATA, “Vietnam Airlines underscores its commitment to sustainable development, contributing to the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, as pledged by Vietnam at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, COP26.”

In May, Vietnam Airlines conducted its first flight to use sustainable aviation fuel, with an Airbus A321 taking on blended fuel at Singapore Changi for a return flight to Hanoi. Additionally, the airline became the first visiting carrier from the Asia-Pacific region to benefit from SAF produced at the Neste refinery in Singapore.

“We believe that the use of SAF will help create a more sustainable future for the aviation industry, providing passengers with both excellent service quality and environmental friendliness,” said Nguyen Chien Thang, EVP of Vietnam Airlines. “We are collaborating with our partners in the supply chain to expand the use of SAF in the future, thereby contributing to the successful achievement of goals related to net-zero emissions and climate change prevention.”

Emirates too has now started using Neste’s blended SAF in Singapore, produced from sustainably sourced renewable waste and residue raw materials including used cooking oil and animal fat. It is the first SAF procurement by Emirates in Asia and part of a broader global agreement with Neste.

“Emirates’ investment into Neste-produced SAF in Singapore marks a first step forward in our SAF adoption in Asia, a region that is primed to become a leading supplier of SAF, which continues to be in short supply,” said Adel Al Redha, the airline’s deputy president and COO. “While the activation of this agreement marks a milestone in our SAF journey in a new region, there’s still a lot of work to do. And as we procure SAF for the short term, we’ve got our sights set on longer-term agreements to help scale up a steady supply of SAF for our operations.”

The airline also uses SAF on flights from Amsterdam, London Heathrow, Paris, Lyon and Oslo, and late last year integrated SAF into fuelling systems at its home hub, Dubai.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand has acquired 500,000 litres of SAF produced from used cooking oil in China by Hong Kong headquartered renewable energy company EcoCeres and blended by Exxon Mobil.

The SAF was delivered to Wellington Airport for use in Air New Zealand’s fleet of ATR 72 regional airliners. The carrier says this volume of SAF is sufficient to fuel 165 Airbus A320 flights between the country’s capital, Wellington, and New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. 

“Airlines are signing supply arrangements for SAF 10 years into the future and beyond,” said Air NZ’s Chief Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Officer, Kiri Hannifin, “so we need to be part of the picture from the start, otherwise New Zealand may fall behind. While the volumes of SAF we are buying are very small compared to the amount of fossil jet fuel we use, they give an important signal to alternative fuel producers that we are open for business.

“We’ve seen increased international momentum around SAF in the past few months, with airlines, governments, airports and fuel companies all getting on board with alternative fuels at pace.

“From 2026, our aircraft will be required to uplift SAF when we fly home from Singapore and Vancouver. Japan has announced a SAF requirement from 2030 and other countries are also making signals that SAF will be mandated for all airlines for outbound flights including in Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China.”

EcoCeres, a business unit of energy supplier Hong Kong and China Gas, operates a waste oil plant in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province in China, producing 100,000 tonnes of SAF per year and 200,000 tonnes per year of renewable diesel. The company says it is the world’s first ISCC-CORSIA Plus approved SAF processing facility. It is now planning a second plant in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, that would produce around 350,000 tonnes a year of low carbon transportation fuel.

Following a $400 million strategic investment made in EcoCeres by Bain Capital in 2023, the fast-expanding company earlier this year appointed former Neste CEO Matti Lievonen as its Executive Chairman. He has been joined by another former Neste executive, Phil Moore, who has taken up the position of Global Head of Sustainable Aviation Fuels.

Meanwhile, Korean Air is expanding its cargo SAF programme through a new partnership with global logistics company CEVA.

The logistics group will support Korean Air’s use of SAF for cargo operations, and the airline will reciprocate by sharing carbon emissions reductions with CEVA.

“One of CEVA’s key short-term levers to promote decarbonisation hinges on collaboration,” said Olivier Boccara, CEVA’s Air and Ocean Leader, APAC. “Through developing new solutions for our customers with airline partners like Korean Air we are able to contribute to meaningful change in our industry.

“Extending our SAF offering into the Asian market is a tangible step we can take now as we look ahead to more advances in fuels and other technologies to decarbonise air freight and the global supply chain.”

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