In a move aimed at reducing fuel imports and addressing environmental concerns, Indonesia achieved a significant milestone as it successfully conducted its first commercial flight using palm oil-blended jet fuel. The flight, operated by the national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, saw a Boeing 737-800NG aircraft carry more than 100 passengers from Jakarta to Surakarta, covering a distance of approximately 550 kilometers (342 miles).
Garuda Indonesia's CEO, Irfan Setiaputra, highlighted the importance of this achievement and noted plans for further collaboration with key stakeholders, including Indonesian state energy firm PT Pertamina and the Energy Ministry, to ensure the commercial viability of this sustainable fuel option.
This innovative palm oil-blended jet fuel, produced at PT Pertamina's Cilacap refinery, utilizes hydroprocessed esters and fatty acid (HEFA) technology and is derived from refined bleached deodorized palm kernel oil. Proponents argue that this biofuel emits fewer greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels, aligning with the global push for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
“In 2021, Pertamina successfully produced 2.0 SAF in its Cilacap unit using co-processing technology and was made of refined bleached deodorized palm kernel oil with production capacity 1,350 kiloliters per day,” explained Alfian Nasution, a director at Pertamina.
Harris Yahya, a director at the Energy Ministry, emphasized the environmental benefits of biofuels, stating that their use would contribute to reducing the aviation industry's greenhouse gas emissions.
The aviation sector, a substantial contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, is actively seeking ways to lower its carbon footprint by incorporating alternative fuels. Experts estimate that the industry will require a staggering 450 billion liters of SAF annually by 2050 to meet net-zero emission targets.
However, concerns have been raised about potential deforestation associated with palm oil production, leading to import restrictions imposed by the European Union. These concerns highlight the importance of sustainable and responsible sourcing of palm oil for biofuel production.
Indonesia had previously conducted a test flight in 2021 using the same palm oil-blended jet fuel, further underscoring the nation's commitment to sustainable aviation. Although Indonesia had mandated a 3% biofuel blending requirement for jet fuel by 2020, the implementation of this regulation has faced delays.
This significant development showcases Indonesia's efforts to address environmental concerns and reduce its reliance on traditional fossil fuels in the aviation sector while contributing to the global push for sustainable aviation fuels.