Sustainable aviation fuel: Here’s why aviation industry is relying on used cooking oil as fuel

Tokyo [Japan], January 3 (ANI): The aviation industry has set an extraordinary goal for itself: zero carbon emissions by 2050. And, as per the latest report by NHK World, they may be able to achieve this goal with a raw material that was previously regarded as kitchen waste!

The Japan-based media house NHK World recently interviewed a bunch of people who opened up about the relevance of used cooking oil.

The manager of an izakaya in Tokyo, Tsuboi Yasuyuki, while talking to the media house, claimed that each month, his restaurant routinely consumes several 18-litre drums of cooking oil.

He said that typically he would pay a disposal company to pick up the used oil. However, he has now started getting enquiries from businesses interested in taking it for free. Some are even offering to pay them for it.

“We used to consider it waste,” said Tsuboi.

“Now, people are asking to take it off our hands, which is very strange.”

Because leftover cooking oil can now be utilised to create sustainable aviation fuel or SAF, there has been a significant increase in demand.

In Japan, around a third of the 4,00,000 tonnes that were gathered in the previous year were used as fuel for aeroplanes and other types of vehicles, as per NHK World.

The aviation sector refers to fuel obtained from non-fossil sources as SAF. Although leftover cooking oil is the primary material utilised in production, research is being done to find other potential waste sources.

If we talk about why the aviation industry is relying so much on used cooking oil or SAF, it’s important we mention that SAF is being used to reduce carbon emissions.

International carriers must reduce their carbon emissions to almost nothing by 2050, according to a goal set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October. In response to growing public pressure on the aviation sector to lessen its environmental impact, this was done.

According to experts at the Air Transport Action Group, the aviation sector produced 115 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019. That represents about 2 per cent of all world emissions.

In recent years, airlines have started to minimise emissions. Shorter flight paths and more fuel-efficient aircraft are now being used.

However, as per NHK World, it is likely that these actions will only succeed in cutting emissions by 20 to 30 per cent of the ICAO objective. Manufacturers are also developing aircraft powered by hydrogen and electricity, but they are still far from being ready for use in commercial aviation.

Because of this, the aviation sector increasingly views SAF as its saviour. According to estimates, switching to SAF from conventional jet fuel would lower emissions across the board by almost 80 per cent.

Because of the EU policy that supports SAF, the fuel is mainly used in Europe. However, a sizable plant is currently being built in Singapore that will have a one million tonne yearly production capacity, which is around five times the present global total of 2,00,000.

As per the report by NHK World, the concept is being worked on by Neste, a Finnish business that produces the most SAF in the world. SAF is provided by the corporation to Japanese airlines through the trading company Itochu Corporation.

Sami Jauhiainen, a Neste executive, claimed that the plant is a component of his company’s efforts to expand the market and increase the usage of SAF in Asia.

“The Asia Pacific region accounts for nearly 40 per cent of global jet fuel consumption, and this will continue to grow in the coming years and decades,” Jauhiainen told NHK World.

“We will be well-positioned to meet the needs and customer demands of the entire Asia Pacific region from our production plant in Singapore.”

Earlier this year, a bunch of prominent Japanese companies formed ‘Act For Sky’ in order to create and promote SAF.

According to the report by NHK World, major airlines All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are among the members, as well as companies outside the aviation sector such as Itochu, Idemitsu Kosan, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The group’s main area of interest is producing used cooking oil. A list of companies ready to collaborate has been established by the organisation, including significant fast-food chains, frozen food producers, sushi franchises, and hotels.

JGC, Cosmo Oil, and REVO International, three members of Act For Sky, are spearheading the initiative to manufacture SAF domestically. They are now constructing a facility in Sakai City, Osaka, with a three-year output objective of about 30,000 tonnes. Even though it’s a relatively small sum, Japan has many more initiatives of this nature planned.

Establishing a domestic production base, according to Nishimura Yuki, a JGC executive involved in Act For Sky, is essential to guaranteeing the long-term viability of the entire SAF project.

“Used cooking oil is currently sent overseas, processed into SAF, and brought back to Japan,” said Nishimura.

“Of course, exporting and importing produces carbon dioxide and costs money. So given Japan’s national interests and goals for decarbonization, we need something different.”

Countries are increasingly competing with one another to find alternatives to used cooking oil. Prices for this waste oil have skyrocketed as a result of rising demand, raising concerns about a supply shortfall. According to certain experts, wood and food waste may be utilised in SAF.

“I’m determined to put all my effort into developing domestic SAF…So people won’t feel flight shame anymore,” Nishimura told NHK World. (ANI)



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