Indonesia's Leap Towards Biofuels: First Commercial Flight with Palm Oil-Blended Jet Fuel

Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, made a significant stride towards reducing fuel imports by operating its first commercial flight using jet fuel blended with palm oil. The flight was operated by the national airline, Garuda Indonesia, using a Boeing 737-800NG aircraft. The aircraft transported over 100 passengers from Jakarta, the capital, to the city of Surakarta, located approximately 550 kilometers away.


Garuda Indonesia's CEO, Irfan Setiaputra, stated during a ceremony that further discussions with Pertamina, the Energy Ministry, and other stakeholders would be held to ensure the commercial viability of this fuel. He also mentioned that the plane was scheduled to return to Jakarta later that day. The airline had previously conducted several tests on the new fuel, including a flight test earlier this month and an engine ground test in August. The palm oil-blended jet fuel is produced by PT Pertamina, an Indonesian state energy company, at its Cilacap refinery. The fuel is made from refined bleached deodorized palm kernel oil using hydro-processed esters and fatty acid (HEFA) technology.


Pertamina claims that this palm-based fuel emits fewer greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming compared to fossil fuels. Palm oil-producing countries have advocated for the inclusion of edible oil in the feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production. Alfian Nasution, a director at Pertamina, stated that in 2021, Pertamina successfully produced 2.0 SAF at its Cilacap unit using co-processing technology. The production capacity of this unit is 1,350 kilolitres per day.

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Harris Yahya, a director at the Energy Ministry, stated that the use of biofuel would reduce the greenhouse effect. The aviation industry, a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, is exploring alternative fuels to reduce its carbon footprint. Experts predict that by 2050, the industry will require 450 billion liters of SAF annually to account for approximately 65% of the mitigation needed to achieve net-zero targets. However, concerns have been raised by some countries about potential deforestation resulting from palm oil production on plantations. As a result, the European Union has imposed import restrictions on this commodity. In 2021, Indonesia conducted a test flight using the same fuel on an aircraft manufactured by state-owned Dirgantara Indonesia. The flight originated from Bandung city in West Java and landed in Jakarta. Although Indonesia mandated a 3% biofuel blend for jet fuel by 2020, implementation has been delayed.

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