Various airlines and oil firms have developed and tested synthetic fuels or biofuels in the past few years, but these fuels have been blended with conventional crude fuel or used only in one engine.
SASOL has scored a world first, officially launching its 100% synthetic coal-to-liquid (CTL) jet fuel on the market at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Show at Ysterplaat Air Force Base, near Cape Town, yesterday.
Various airlines and oil firms have developed and tested synthetic fuels or biofuels in the past few years, but these fuels have been blended with conventional crude fuel or used only in one engine. Sasol’s fuel marks the first time that a fully synthetic fuel was used on a commercial flight.
With the airline industry pledging to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020 and reduce emissions 50% by 2050, these developments are being keenly watched. In 2008, Virgin Atlantic became the first airline in the world to operate a commercial aircraft on a biofuel blend. The Boeing 747 flew a short flight from London to Amsterdam, using a 20% biofuel, 80% kerosene blend in one of its four engines.
While the achievement of 100% synthetic jet fuel is a milestone, Sasol and other oil firms still have a long way to go before a commercially viable biofuel or eco- friendly fuel becomes available. The innovation comes ahead of Sasol’s 60th birthday this weekend.
Sasol CEO Pat Davies said while Sasol had no plans to make the fuel commercially available now, there was huge interest in the new product from international airlines. Willem Louw, MD of Sasol Technology, said that the 100% synthetic jet fuel did not provide lower CO² emissions of the efficiency sought by the airline industry, but it was a cleaner burning fuel and placed less stress on engine components.
The launch of the fuel follows its approval last April by ASTM International, the global standards body, for the use of 100% CTL fuel in commercial aviation. This is a natural progression for Sasol, which, since 1999, has supplied the local industry with a 50% blend of CTL fuel.
L ast October, a Qatar Airways Airbus A340-600 became the first commercial aircraft to use a gas-to- liquid (GTL) blended fuel, produced by oil group Shell, for a paid passenger flight between London and Doha. Qatar Petroleum and Shell are expected to produce about 1-million tons of GTL kerosene a year from 2012.
To launch the new fuel, Sasol, in partnership with private aviation group National Airways Corporation (NAC), yesterday flew four aircraft in to Ysterplaat Air Force Base to demonstrate the use of the new product. These included a Boeing 737, laden with guests from Johannesburg, a King Air, a PAC 750 and a Hawker 4000 private jet.
Last year, Paul Morgan, manager of fuel technology at Sasol, said that Sasol had not begun supplying pure CTL fuel to the country’s airports as the logistics were not in place.
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