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Scaling sustainable aviation fuel in ASEAN (Part 1): challenges and opportunities

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By Alex Hong

· 28 min read


A viable replacement for conventional aviation fuel, which is made from crude oil and contributes significantly to the world's carbon emissions, is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Utilising waste products such old cooking oil, animal fats, agricultural by-products, and other wastes as feedstocks, SAF is created. Depending on the feedstock and production technique, SAF can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aeroplanes by up to 80%.

The importance of sustainable aviation fuel

Approximately 2 to 3% of the world's carbon emissions are attributable to the aviation sector, and this percentage is expected to rise as air travel becomes more widely available and reasonably priced. The aviation industry must do its lot to lessen its carbon footprint as the globe works to achieve its climate goals and cut carbon emissions. SAF is essential to attaining this objective, and numerous airlines and governments have set high adoption goals.

SAF decreases dangerous pollutant emissions such nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and particulate matter, which not only lowers carbon emissions but also improves air quality. SAF can aid in the growth of a circular economy by utilising waste products as feedstocks, reducing waste, and generating new sources of income.

The current state of SAF production in ASEAN

With more than 600 million passengers passing through its airports each year, the ASEAN area is one of the aviation markets with the greatest rate of growth in the world. In the coming decades, the region, which is home to several growing economies, is expected to experience one of the fastest rates of aviation growth worldwide.

Despite this development, ASEAN has been slow to implement SAF. There are only a few airlines and airports that actively use SAF in the region, which produces less than 1% of all SAF used globally.

The absence of adequate feedstocks is one of the major obstacles to the development of SAF in ASEAN. Despite the region's abundance of biomass resources, including sugarcane and palm oil, many of these materials are also utilised to make food and animal feed. Additionally, worries about the environmental effects of some feedstocks, such palm oil, have been voiced, prompting several airports and airlines to establish stringent sustainability standards.

Lack of policy encouragement and incentives for SAF production and use is another problem. There aren't as many government-sponsored efforts in ASEAN as there are in Europe and North America, where such programmes have aided in the adoption of SAF. Production of SAF is more expensive and less competitive than that of conventional aviation fuel due to this lack of assistance.

Feedstock challenges

Discussion of feedstock availability and sustainability

A key component in the development of sustainable aviation fuel is the availability and sustainability of feedstocks. Currently, waste oils and fats, animal fats, and vegetable oils are the most often used feedstocks for the manufacturing of SAF. However, due to worries about deforestation, changes in land use, and competition with food crops, the sustainability of these feedstocks has come into doubt.

The availability of feedstocks for SAF manufacture varies per nation in the ASEAN area. For instance, Indonesia is the biggest producer of crude palm oil, which is a feedstock for the creation of SAF. However, there has been much discussion over the sustainability of palm oil production due to worries about deforestation, biodiversity loss, and violations of human rights in the palm oil sector.

Jatropha, cassava, and sugarcane are other possible feedstocks for SAF synthesis in the ASEAN region. Due to their high yields and suitability for cultivation in the area, several crops have been recognised as prospective feedstocks. To make them viable possibilities for SAF production, however, issues with land-use competition, water accessibility, and infrastructure restrictions must be resolved. Hence, the use of feedstock can vary greatly in ASEAN.

In order to ensure that feedstocks are generated in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, policymakers and industry stakeholders must collaborate to identify sustainable feedstock possibilities and implement legislation and regulations. There is much need to contextualise the availability of feedstock unique and abundant in the country to create sustainable and economically viable SAFs. 

Analysis of the suitability of different feedstocks for the ASEAN region

A wide variety of agricultural, forestry, and waste resources are available in the ASEAN region that may be used as feedstocks for the production of SAF. The usefulness (effectiveness) of these feedstocks, however, varies based on a number of variables, including accessibility, sustainability, cost, and technological preparedness.

Palm oil, which is widely grown in Malaysia and Indonesia, is one of the most potential feedstocks for SAF production in the ASEAN region. If produced sustainably, palm oil (biomass) has the potential to meet up to 40% of the world's aviation fuel demand by 2050, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). However, due to worries about deforestation and changes in land usage, as well as social and environmental effects, the use of palm oil as a feedstock for SAF manufacturing has been a contentious issue. A certification programme for sustainable palm oil production has been developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which may help allay some of these worries.

Jatropha is a shrub that can grow on marginal soils and is drought-resistant, making it another viable feedstock for SAF production in the ASEAN region. Due to its high oil content and capacity to grow on dry, degraded areas, jatropha has been extensively studied as a feedstock for biofuels, particularly SAF. Jatropha cultivation for commercial usage has obstacles, such as low yields, high production costs, and a lack of infrastructure. Jatropha is also commonly found in Laos, an ASEAN member nation. 

Waste products including spent cooking oil, municipal solid waste, and agricultural waste are some more possible feedstocks for SAF manufacturing in the ASEAN region. As an illustration, Thailand has begun using wasted cooking oil as a feedstock for the manufacture of SAF. These waste products could reduce trash disposal while also serving as an affordable feedstock for the manufacture of SAF.

The feasibility of various feedstocks for SAF production in the ASEAN region generally depends on a variety of factors, including sustainability, affordability, technological readiness, and availability. Economic and environmental benefits for the ASEAN region could result from the establishment of sustainable SAF production utilising locally accessible feedstocks.

Technology challenges

Overview of the technology involved in SAF production

Sustainable aviation fuel can be produced through different technological pathways, including Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, hydroprocessing, and pyrolysis, among others. These pathways use different feedstocks and have different energy inputs and outputs, greenhouse gas emission profiles, and economic viability.

Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) is a process that converts carbon-based feedstocks into liquid fuels through a series of chemical reactions. The feedstocks can be derived from natural gas, coal, biomass, or waste streams. The FTS process can produce synthetic jet fuel with high energy density and low sulfur content, which makes it a suitable option for aviation applications. However, the process requires high temperatures and pressures and produces significant amounts of CO2 emissions, which can offset the emissions savings from using the fuel.

Another method for creating SAF is hydroprocessing, which uses animal or vegetable fats as feedstocks. The feedstocks are stripped of oxygen using hydrogen gas and a catalyst, which transforms them into hydrocarbons that can be further processed into jet fuel. Hydroprocessed SAF has a reduced carbon footprint than petroleum-based jet fuel, but the supply of suitable feedstocks restricts its production.

Biomass feedstocks are transformed by pyrolysis into bio-oil, which can then be processed into SAF. To create a liquid bio-oil that can be divided into distinct fractions, the feedstocks are heated in the absence of oxygen. Hydroprocessing or other refining methods can be used to enhance the bio-oil to create SAF with a low carbon impact. Pyrolysis can be combined with other processes to generate heat and electricity and can employ a variety of feedstocks, including agricultural wastes, forestry waste, and energy crops.

The best feedstocks (or most economically accessible) for SAF production in ASEAN are palm oil, jatropha, and used cooking oil. With Malaysia and Indonesia being the top two producers of palm oil worldwide, palm oil is the most widely available and economically viable feedstock in the area. However, the sustainability of palm oil extraction has been questioned due to its links to social unrest, land use change, and deforestation. Jatropha is a non-food crop that can be cultivated on marginal terrain and requires little in the way of fertiliser and water, making it a possible sustainable source of SAF feedstock. Although waste cooking oil is a by-product of food processing and has a low carbon impact, it is scarce and competes with other uses, such as the creation of biodiesel.

In essence, the availability and sustainability of feedstocks, energy efficiency, the potential to reduce emissions, and economic viability all play a role in the choice of feedstocks and the technology pathway for SAF production. To ensure that the feedstocks are generated sustainably and that the production process is efficient and cost-effective, the development of sustainable aviation fuel in ASEAN requires a coordinated effort from policymakers, industry participants, and civil society.

Discussion of the challenges associated with scaling up SAF production technology

Despite the advantages of SAF and the rising demand for its production, scaling up SAF production technology in ASEAN is fraught with difficulties. The cost of production is one major obstacle compared to regular aviation fuel. The cost of producing SAF is now substantially greater than that of regular aviation fuel since it requires large initial investments. This is no insurmountable, as the world increases it focus on achieving a shared vision of net zero ambitions, the channelling of structure sustainable finance will enable much needed investments into this nascent sector. 

The lack of readily available production facilities and the requirement for major infrastructural investments to scale up production are further difficulties. There are just a few SAF manufacturing facilities in ASEAN at the moment, and expanding production would necessitate significant infrastructure investments in feedstock transportation and storage facilities, production facilities, and distribution networks.

The efficiency of conversion processes needs to be improved, and new manufacturing techniques need to be created that can handle a range of feedstocks, among other technological issues. To achieve uniform quality and safety standards, the SAF certification procedure is currently under development, and regulatory requirements must be standardised.

To encourage SAF development and use, governments must provide policy and regulatory support. Governments can require airlines to utilise a specific proportion of SAF in their fuel mix as well as offer tax breaks and subsidies to SAF manufacturers.

Despite these difficulties, ASEAN offers prospects for SAF production. Palm oil, sugarcane, and cassava are just a few of the numerous biomass resources available in the area that can be used as SAF feedstocks. Additionally, SAF has a huge market opportunity because to the region's rising demand for air travel.

Scaling up SAF production technology in ASEAN is a challenging yet rewarding task due to a number of factors, including as high production costs, poor infrastructure, technological obstacles, and a lack of assistance from policy and regulations. However, the region offers great prospects for SAF production and adoption due to its plentiful biomass supplies and rising demand for aviation travel. To promote sustainable aviation and lessen the environmental effect of the aviation sector, it is imperative to solve these issues and take use of these opportunities. When we can achieve scale, we can move a step closer toward our net zero ambitions in aviation. 

Analysis of the most promising technological solutions for ASEAN

There are a number of possible technological options that might be investigated in order to solve the difficulties of scaling up SAF production technology in ASEAN. The utilisation of biomass-to-liquids (BTL) technology, which transforms biomass feedstocks, such as agricultural and forestry waste, into synthetic jet fuel by gasification and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, is one of the most promising options.

The national oil corporation Petronas of Malaysia has manufactured SAF utilising BTL technology with success. In 2020, Petronas' research and development facility in Paka, Terengganu, produced 20,000 litres of SAF from palm oil biomass. The company intends to use BTL technology to scale up its SAF production, with the goal of producing up to 500,000 litres of SAF annually by 2022.

The utilisation of power-to-liquid (PTL) technology, which produces hydrogen from renewable electricity such as solar or wind power and then transforms it into synthetic jet fuel using the Fischer-Tropsch process, is another viable technological alternative. Due to the fact that the fuel burning produces the only emissions, this technique has the potential to provide SAF that is carbon-neutral.

The Energy Market Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore have joined forces with Singapore's national airline, Singapore Airlines (SIA), to investigate the potential application of PTL technology for SAF production. By 2024, the collaboration wants to construct a test facility that can generate up to a thousand tonnes of SAF annually.

From a marco-perspective, scaling up SAF production technology in ASEAN is fraught with serious difficulties, but there are also potentially useful technological alternatives that can be investigated. The area may lower its carbon footprint and support global efforts to slow down climate change by investing in these technologies and creating supportive regulations.

Yield challenges

Explanation of the factors that influence the yield of SAF production

Several variables, including the kind of feedstock, processing methods, and production volume, have an impact on the yield of SAF production. The yield of SAF manufacturing is highly influenced by the feedstock type used. For instance, it has been discovered that lignocellulosic feedstocks, such as agricultural waste and forestry residues, provide lower yields than lipid-based feedstocks, such as used cooking oil. For the manufacturing of SAF, lignocellulosic feedstocks have the potential to offer a greater volume of feedstock than lipid-based feedstocks.

The yield of the finished product is significantly influenced by the processing technology utilised for SAF manufacture. The efficiency of the conversion process, the purity of the feedstock, and the quality of the finished product are just a few of the variables that have an impact on the yield. The yield of SAF production has been shown to be greatly improved by the application of cutting-edge processing methods including hydroprocessing and gasification.

A crucial aspect that affects the yield of SAF production is also the production scale. It has been discovered that smaller manufacturing units are less effective than larger production units. This is so that the utilisation of resources may be optimised and bigger scale entities can profit from economies of scale. Due to a lack of large-scale production facilities, small-scale SAF manufacture now predominates in ASEAN.

It is essential to invest in cutting-edge processing technology, expand the supply of sustainably derived feedstocks, and expand production facilities to achieve economies of scale in order to raise the yield of SAF production in ASEAN. This will assist boost the yield of SAF production while also lowering production costs and improving SAF's ability to compete with traditional jet fuel.

Discussion of the challenges associated with achieving high SAF yields

The above noted availability and sustainability of feedstocks are two significant obstacles to reaching high SAF yields. The cost of production is another issue, which can be significant given the high capital expenditure needed for SAF production facilities and the price of feedstock. Additionally, turning feedstock into SAF can be a difficult operation that calls for specialised tools and knowledge.

The effectiveness of the conversion process also has an impact on the yield of SAF manufacturing. The pre-treatment, conversion, and purification of feedstock are a few of the processes that go into the creation of SAF. Each of these processes has the potential to affect the process' total yield. The overall yield of SAF, for instance, could be decreased if the conversion process is inefficient and a sizeable amount of the feedstock is lost or transformed into undesirable by-products.

Researchers and industry participants in ASEAN are looking into new technologies and processes to increase the effectiveness of SAF production in order to overcome these obstacles. Advanced catalysts used in the conversion process are one viable solution. In order to improve the efficiency of the conversion process and boost the yields of SAF, catalysts are compounds that speed up chemical reactions.

The utilisation of renewable energy sources to run the SAF production process is also being investigated by researchers. This can make SAF production more environmentally friendly and long-term sustainable by lowering its carbon footprint.

In general, getting high SAF yields is a challenging task that necessitates careful consideration of a wide range of variables, including feedstock accessibility, production costs, and conversion effectiveness. ASEAN can continue to advance towards scaling up sustainable aviation fuel production and lowering the aviation industry's carbon footprint by tackling these issues through innovation and cooperation.

Analysis of the strategies that can be employed to increase SAF yield in ASEAN

There are a number of tactics that can be used to raise the yield of SAF production in ASEAN:

  1. Developing better processing technology: This can also help to boost SAF production. For instance, increasing yield can be achieved by utilising cutting-edge methods like hydroprocessing, which can transform a wider variety of feedstocks into SAF.
  2. Creating better feedstock: Creating feedstock with more lipid content and fewer contaminants can boost SAF yield. Research is being done to develop feedstock that produces lipids more efficiently and contains fewer contaminants, including algae strains with increased lipid content.
  3. Putting integrated processes into place: Putting integrated processes into place that can utilise SAF manufacturing byproducts, such glycerin, to make other valuable products can also help to enhance yield. Through steam reformation, for instance, glycerin can be used to create hydrogen, which can then be utilised to fuel the production process.
  4. Improving production circumstances: Improving SAF production parameters, such as temperature, pressure, and catalyst usage, can help boost SAF yield. A good understanding of the chemical processes necessary for SAF manufacturing is necessary for this.
  5. Adopting a circular economy strategy: A circular economy strategy can help to maximise resource utilisation, decrease waste, and increase yield. Creating a closed-loop system that uses waste materials from SAF production as feedstock for other processes can do this, lowering the demand for new feedstock and raising total yield.

By putting these tactics into practise, it will be possible to boost ASEAN-wide SAF manufacturing yield, which will hasten the transition to more environmentally friendly aviation. But it will take time for these tactics to be completely implemented because they demand a lot of money and research.

Other challenges

Discussion of the challenges associated with SAF distribution and uptake

The distribution and consumption of the fuel is one of the difficulties in ASEAN's attempt to scale up SAF production. The region currently has a limited supply of SAF, and distribution networks are still developing. Airlines who want to use SAF now face a huge obstacle since they might not have access to the fuel.

The price difference between SAF and conventional jet fuel presents another difficulty. According to a report by the International Energy Agency, the high cost of feedstocks and production technology is the primary reason why SAF is now priced much higher than traditional jet fuel. Airlines find it challenging to defend the conversion to SAF due to the high expense, particularly in light of the financial strains brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic.

It is possible to increase the adoption and dissemination of SAF in ASEAN by utilising a number of ways to overcome these issues. To support the creation and use of SAF, policies and regulations can be created as one tactic. The expansion of SAF production, for instance, has been supported by Indonesia's creation of a sustainable aviation fuel strategy.

Promoting financial support for the construction of SAF production facilities and distribution networks is another tactic. The cost of SAF production and distribution can be decreased by using incentives like tax rebates and subsidies.

The demand for fuel may also be boosted by raising public awareness of the advantages of SAF. Airlines can draw clients who are prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly travel options by emphasising the advantages of SAF.

Overall, while there are a number of obstacles to the widespread adoption of SAF in ASEAN, there are also a number of solutions that can be used to overcome these obstacles and boost SAF usage in the region.

The “opportunity cost” in SAF production and other sustainable initiatives towards the broader effort towards net zero by ASEAN countries

The opportunity cost of employing feedstocks that could be used for food production is one of the obstacles to scaling up SAF manufacturing in ASEAN. Over 40% of ASEAN's crop production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is squandered. This covers both food waste and post-harvest losses. While it could be alluring to use this garbage to produce SAF, doing so might make the region's food insecurity worse.

There are numerous approaches that can be used to lessen this difficulty. Focusing on non-food biomass sources like municipal solid waste or agricultural byproducts is one strategy. Rice straw and palm oil wastes are just two examples of the abundant agricultural waste that can be used as a feedstock for SAF manufacturing in ASEAN. 

In ASEAN nations, there is a potential supply of agricultural leftovers that is thought to be around 575 million tonnes annually, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Increasing the effectiveness of food production and delivery networks can also help to cut down on food waste. This would not only relieve food shortages and encourage sustainable agriculture, but it would also lower the opportunity cost of using feedstocks for SAF production. Furthermore, it is crucial to remember that the production of SAF is only a small part of a larger initiative to achieve net zero emissions in ASEAN nations. Therefore, in order to reduce emissions and promote sustainability, authorities need to give priority to methods that offer the highest overall benefits.

Despite the difficulties involved in employing non-food biomass sources as feedstocks for SAF production in ASEAN, there are also huge opportunities to increase the effectiveness of food production systems. As a result, ASEAN nations may assist in achieving their net zero objectives while tackling issues like food shortages and advancing sustainable agriculture.

Analysis of the regulatory and policy frameworks needed to support SAF adoption in ASEAN

A favourable regulatory and policy environment must be in place in order to encourage the adoption of SAF in ASEAN. The absence of clear policy guidance from governments on how to encourage SAF adoption is one of the major issues facing the aviation sector. This may deter airlines from switching to SAF and hamper investment on SAF production.

Some ASEAN nations have recently implemented policy initiatives to encourage the adoption of SAF. For instance, Indonesia has developed a national SAF development strategy that intends to attain a 2% SAF blend by 2025 and a 50% SAF blend by 2050. In order to promote investment in SAF manufacture, the government is also offering financial incentives.

Similar to this, the Malaysian government has declared plans to set up a SAF facility and is trying to create a legislative framework for SAF use and manufacturing. A proposal to build a domestic SAF industry has also been made public by Thailand, with the aim of producing 10% of the nation's aviation fuel from renewable sources by 2030.

However, additional effort has to be done to create a thorough regulatory framework that will facilitate the deployment of SAF in the area. In addition to supportive policies and incentives for investment in SAF manufacturing, this should include specific targets for SAF production and use. In order to level the playing field for SAF producers and users, rules and regulations should be harmonised within ASEAN nations.

In order to promote the expansion of the SAF industry in ASEAN and facilitate the shift to net zero emissions in the aviation sector, a favourable regulatory and policy framework must be created.

Opportunities for scaling up SAF production in ASEAN

Discussion of the potential benefits of scaling up SAF production in ASEAN

There are several and major advantages to increasing SAF manufacturing in ASEAN. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry is one of the main advantages. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) claims that using SAF instead of conventional jet fuel can save carbon emissions by up to 80%. This decrease in emissions may help the global fight against climate change.

The ASEAN area may also profit economically from the increased production of SAF. As the demand for SAF rises, new employment possibilities in its distribution and manufacture may arise. Because it lessens reliance on imported fossil fuels, the growth of a local SAF industry can also increase the region's energy security.

The implementation of SAF may also result in better air quality in ASEAN nations. The use of SAF might lessen the emissions of dangerous pollutants including nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which the aviation industry contributes significantly to. The recent reports on the worsening air quality (haze etc.) in ASEAN countries will affect the general health of the region and in turn potentially reduce productivity. 

The development of sustainable agriculture practises in ASEAN may also benefit from the increased production of SAF. As was previously mentioned, waste streams and agricultural by-products can serve as sources of some feedstocks for the manufacturing of SAF. Farmers may be able to generate new sources of income as a result, and sustainable practises like waste minimization and the circular economy may be promoted. Some ASEAN member countries has a large agrarian base and will be ideal mobilise this sector while increasing their income. 

SAF production in ASEAN might be scaled significantly, which could have a variety of positive effects, including lowered greenhouse gas emissions, better air quality, energy security, the development of jobs, and chances for sustainable agriculture. However, the achievement of these advantages depends on the development of a beneficial legislative and regulatory environment, funding for research and development, and cooperation between players in the aviation sector, the government, and civil society.

Analysis of the market potential for SAF in the region

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has a substantial market potential in the ASEAN area as the aviation sector expands there. The Asia-Pacific area is predicted to have the largest aviation industry by 2037, with an estimated 3.5 billion people flying each year, according to a survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Airlines are under pressure to decrease their carbon footprint and fulfil emission reduction objectives as a result of the rising demand for air travel. As a result, there is rising interest in using SAF as a more environmentally friendly substitute for standard jet fuel.

Several projects are currently under way in ASEAN with the goal of boosting SAF production and usage. For instance, Indonesia's Pertamina, a state-owned oil and gas corporation, aims to produce 3 million barrels of SAF every year by 2025. The same goes for AirAsia's pledge to use 2 million litres of SAF annually by 2025 in Malaysia. With a target of 2% SAF utilisation by 2025, Singapore, which is home to one of the biggest aviation hubs in the world, has also been actively encouraging the use of SAF.

The development and acceptance of SAF are further supported by a number of government-led initiatives throughout ASEAN. For instance, the country's infrastructure and SAF production have been supported by a $10 million grant from the Singapore Energy Market Authority (EMA). Similar targets have been established by the Thai government, who wants to use 10% biofuels—including SAF—in the nation's transportation sector by 2036.

Although ASEAN has a limited capacity for SAF production at the moment, the area has a sizable market opportunity given the growing interest in and investment in SAF production and adoption. The demand for SAF is anticipated to increase as the global aviation industry continues to prioritise sustainability, providing potential for ASEAN to establish itself as a major supplier and consumer of sustainable aviation fuel.

The anticipated effect that increasing SAF prices will have on the accessibility of air travel within ASEAN. When can we anticipate that the transition will return to normal, and will the prices increase?

SAF prices continue to be considerably costly in comparison to conventional jet fuel since sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) manufacturing in ASEAN is still in its early stages. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that the cost of producing SAF is currently three to five times greater than that of regular jet fuel. This price discrepancy is brought about by the scarce supply of feedstock and the high cost of production, which includes intricate and energy-intensive procedures like gasification, hydroprocessing, and bio-refining.

As a result of SAF's higher price tag, airlines in ASEAN and other regions have been unwilling to adopt it. However, industry experts anticipate that SAF prices will decline and eventually match those of conventional jet fuel as demand for the fuel grows and production technology improves.

It is anticipated that the transition to reduced SAF costs will take several years. If the sector expands up production and feedstock becomes more widely available, SAF production costs might be comparable to regular jet fuel by 2030, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. According to other experts, the changeover may take longer, with SAF prices continuing to be higher than those of conventional jet fuel at least until 2040.

Depending on how rapidly the aviation industry can convert to SAF and how much of the increased production costs are passed on to consumers, increasing SAF prices will have an impact on how affordable flying is in ASEAN. The impact of higher SAF pricing on travel costs will vary depending on how much more expensive SAF is compared to conventional jet fuel in the short run.

The widespread use of SAF, however, might eventually lead to more stable and predictable fuel prices for airlines, lowering their susceptibility to price volatility in conventional jet fuel markets. Additionally, SAF can assist airlines in achieving their sustainability objectives, which could become more significant to customers in the upcoming years.

While the production of SAF is moving closer to attaining this target, despite the fact that the transition to reduced SAF prices may take some time. The benefits of widespread SAF adoption in ASEAN are substantial.

Overview of the initiatives and collaborations aimed at promoting SAF production in ASEAN

In order to encourage the development of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the ASEAN region, numerous initiatives and partnerships have been formed. One such project is the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded ASEAN Biofuels and renewable Energy Project (BCEP), which aims to boost the production and use of biofuels and renewable energy in ASEAN nations.

Several SAF production-related projects have been carried out under the BCEP, including the Biojet Fuel Testing and Evaluation Project in the Philippines and the Biojet Fuel Supply Chain Development Project in Thailand. These initiatives involve the development and testing of SAF utilising various feedstocks, including jatropha and used frying oil.

In addition to the BCEP, various partnerships between governments, academic institutions, and private businesses have been formed to support SAF manufacturing in ASEAN. The Singapore Green Aviation Research and Development Network (GARDN), for instance, was founded in 2016 to encourage research and development in SAF and other green aviation technology.

The manufacture and usage of SAF is being promoted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in collaboration with ASEAN nations. 2019 saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the ICAO and the ASEAN Secretariat to work together on SAF-related projects, including policy development and capacity building.

These programmes and partnerships are essential for advancing SAF production and uptake in ASEAN because they offer resources including finance, technical know-how, and policy support to help deal with the difficulties. It is also key to understand that SAF cannot be the only solution and effort for the aviation industry towards lowering emissions and it would require a complex matrix of complementary solutions to support the net zero ambitions of the industry.


The aviation industry's efforts to lessen its carbon footprint and attain net-zero emissions depend greatly on the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The ASEAN region, which has among of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets, is also looking into ways to increase the usage and production of SAF. To accomplish this goal, however, a number of important issues must be resolved, including the availability and sustainability of feedstocks, technological hurdles, yield restrictions, distribution and uptake issues, and regulatory and legislative frameworks.

However, it is important to carefully assess their sustainability and applicability for ASEAN. The region offers a considerable potential for the production of feedstocks for SAF. For the effective and economical manufacturing of SAF, proper technological progress is essential. Even though improving the output of SAF manufacturing involves a number of difficulties, initiatives like the exploitation of waste and new technology can greatly raise yields. To encourage the use of SAF, ASEAN nations must provide the necessary legislative and policy frameworks and make sure that any chances to reduce food loss during SAF production are taken advantage of.

Increasing SAF production in ASEAN can provide a number of advantages, including as lowered greenhouse gas emissions, increased energy security, and job growth. But switching to SAF might be expensive, and the region's capacity to afford flying might suffer as a result of higher SAF prices. Initiatives and partnerships, like the ASEAN Biojet Fuel Taskforce and the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative, are necessary to increase SAF production in ASEAN in order to ensure a smooth transition.

SAF production in ASEAN faces a number of substantial hurdles, but with the proper policies, technology, and partnerships, the region can scale up SAF production and contribute to the global effort to cut carbon emissions.

The demand for sustainable solutions intensifies as the ASEAN aviation market expands, post global pandemic. Significant obstacles must be overcome in order to scale up the production and consumption of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). In order to increase SAF production in the ASEAN region, it is necessary to address a number of aspects, including feedstock, technology, yield, and others. While there are obstacles, there are also opportunities. The article highlighted the possible advantages of stepping up SAF manufacturing and urging cooperation and action to develop a sustainable aviation sector in ASEAN. It is also important to understand the SAF will not be the only way for the aviation industry to reach net zero (it will also be highly impossible). It will require further innovation and a combination of other fuels and technologies to make it possible.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Alex Hong is the Executive Director of Digipulse Data and strategic advisor. He is the Chief Sustainability Coordinator of the Youth Networking Business Committee (YNBC). Alex is LinkedIn’s Top Voices (Green) in Singapore 2022 and represents the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) as the Ambassador of Southeast Asia.

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