DALLAS — On Friday, October 27, 2023, a Garuda Indonesia (GA) Boeing 737-800NG made history by taking off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) using a blend of jet fuel derived from palm oil. This marked the first time that such a fuel mixture was used for a commercial flight.
The Jakarta flight, carrying over 100 passengers, covered a distance of 342 miles (550 km) and landed at Adi Sumarmo Airport (SOC) in Surakarta just over an hour later.
Indonesia, being the largest producer of palm oil, is actively promoting the increased utilization of biofuels as a means to reduce fuel imports. The Indonesian flag carrier conducted a trial flight in 2021 using the same palm oil-derived fuel. Dirgantara Indonesia, a state-owned company, conducted the test on one of its aircraft, which took off from Bandung (BDO) in West Java and landed in Jakarta.
Additionally, GA recently conducted various tests on the new biofuel, including a flight test earlier this month and an engine ground test in August.
About Palm-Oil Blended Jet Fuel
Indonesian state-owned energy firm PT Pertamina produces palm-oil blended jet fuel at its Cilacap refinery. In August 1968, Pertamina and Permina merged to create PT Pertamina. In 2020, the firm was the third-largest crude oil producer in Indonesia, behind US-based companies ExxonMobil’s Mobil Cepu Ltd. and Chevron Pacific Indonesia.
Pertamina has said that palm-based fuel emits fewer atmosphere-warming greenhouse gases compared with fossil fuels. The process uses hydroprocessed esters and fatty acid (HEFA) technology and is made of refined, bleached, deodorized palm kernel oil.
Palm-oil blended jet fuel is one type of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Made from non-petroleum feedstocks, SAF is an alternative fuel that reduces emissions from air transportation. SAF can be blended at different levels with limits of 10% to 50%, depending on the feedstock and how the fuel is produced.
According to Reuters, Harris Yahya, a director at the Energy Ministry in Indonesia, said the use of biofuel would lower greenhouse gases. The aviation industry, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, is looking for ways to cut its carbon footprint by using alternative fuels.
It is worth noting that some countries have raised concerns over the potential for deforestation in the production of palm oil from plantations. In fact, the European Union has imposed import restrictions on the commodity.
On the other side of the globe, Airlines for America (A4A) reported that U.S. airlines have pledged to work across the aviation industry and with government leaders to make 3 billion gallons of cost-competitive sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) available for use in 2030.
This is not the first time SAF has been tested on a commercial flight. On June 21, 2022, regional aircraft manufacturer ATR, Swedish airline Braathens Regional Airlines, and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supplier Neste joined forces to successfully conduct the first-ever test flight of a commercial aircraft powered entirely by 100% SAF.
Experts say the industry will need 450 billion liters of SAF a year by 2050 if the fuel is to account for around 65% of the mitigation needed to achieve net-zero targets.
Featured image: PK-GFQ (Ayo Pakai Masker Livery) Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-800 WIMM KNO. Photo: Wilbert Tana/Airways