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By Bernadette Christina
Indonesia on Friday flew its first commercial flight using palm oil-blended jet fuel, as the world’s biggest producer of the commodity pushes for wider use of biofuels to cut fuel imports.
Operated by flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, the Boeing737-800NG aircraft carried more than 100 passengers from the capital Jakarta to Surakarta city about 550 kilometres away, Garuda Indonesia CEO Irfan Setiaputra said.
“We will discuss further with Pertamina, Energy Ministry and other parties to ensure this fuel is commercially reasonable,” Setiaputra said during a ceremony.
Garuda conducted several tests including a flight test on the new fuel earlier this month and an engine ground test in August.
The palm-oil blended jet fuel is produced by Indonesian state energy firm PT Pertamina at its Cilacap refinery, using hydro-processed esters and fatty acid (HEFA)technology and is made of refined bleached deodorized palm kernel oil.
Pertamina has said the palm-based fuel emits less atmosphere warming greenhouse gases compared with fossil fuels, and palm oil producing countries have called for the edible oil to be included in feedstock for the production of sustainable aviation fuel (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 kilolitres per day,” said Alfian Nasution, a director at Pertamina.
Meanwhile, Harris Yahya, a director at Energy Ministry said the use of biofuel would lower the greenhouse effect.
The aviation industry, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, is looking for ways to cut its carbon footprint by using alternative fuels.
Experts say the industry will need 450 billion litres of SAF a year by 2050, if the fuel is to account for around 65 percent of the mitigation needed to achieve net-zero targets.
But some countries have raised concerns over the potential for deforestation in the production of palm oil from plantations. The European Union has imposed import restrictions on the commodity.
In 2021, Indonesia ran a test flight with the same fuel on an aircraft made by state-owned Dirgantara Indonesia, flying from the city of Bandung in West Java to the capital Jakarta.
Indonesia has mandated three percent biofuel blending by 2020 for jet fuel, but implementation has been delayed.