PH aviation industry shows initiative in reducing GHG emissions

PH aviation industry shows initiative in reducing GHG emissions
Cebu Pacific’s newest Airbus A330neo used sustainable aviation fuel on its delivery flight from Toulouse, France to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on May 2022. Photo from Cebu Pacific.
  • As airlines chart a recovery path, attention is refocused on reducing carbon emissions, and sustainable aviation fuel is a key part of the aviation industry’s solution
  • Cebu Pacific is leading the local aviation industry in using SAF
  • New investments in SAF production are being studied as the Philippines addresses climate change
  • The UN International Civil Aviation Organization says greenhouse gas emissions from aviation could increase to 2 to 4 times 2015 levels by 2050

As airlines racing to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic refocus attention on carbon dioxide emissions, the Philippines is showing initiative in mitigating the impact of domestic and global aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions on climate change, says a report released by the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service.

The report, titled Philippines: Flying Green- Sustainable Aviation Fuel in the Philippines, prepared by Florence Mojica-Sevilla, highlighted low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific’s pioneering use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in May 2022 as part of its corporate effort to cut GHG emission, more than 2% of which is being attributed the global aviation industry.

New investments in SAF production are also being studied. The Philippines shows initiative in addressing the effects of climate change resulting from domestic and international aviation. With jet fuel GHG emissions growing, commercial aviation needs an immediate decarbonization solution through SAF, the report said.

Among local airlines in the Philippines, Cebu Pacific is leading the way, having started using SAF on its Airbus fleet.

SAF is a key part of the aviation industry’s plan to reduce carbon emissions, the report said, citing a United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecast that GHG emissions from aviation could increase two to four times 2015 levels by 2050.

Cebu Pacific used SAF for the first time in May 2022, the first low-cost airline to incorporate SAF into its operations when it took delivery of its third A330neo from Toulouse, France, using 35% blended SAF, the report said.

On January 1 this year, the airline took delivery of its ninth aircraft and flew it using SAF from the Airbus Hamburg facility in Germany to Manila, Mojica-Sevilla said.

There are reports that Cebu Pacific is expecting 10 brand-new Airbus NEO planes in 2023, she said. To date, the airline has 55 Airbus planes that can be fueled with SAF.

On September 28, 2022, Cebu Pacific operated its first commercial passenger flight from Singapore to Manila using SAF produced by Neste in Singapore, and supplied by Shell Eastern Petroleum at Changi International Airport.

The Airbus NEO fleet is certified to operate with a 50% SAF blend, and Airbus is committed to enabling the use of up to 100% SAF by 2030, the report said.

In September 2022, Cebu Pacific signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shell Eastern Petroleum to make SAF more widely available. The MOU explores supply and purchase of SAF in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, with an initial supply volume of at least 25 kilotons per year, Mojica-Sevilla said.

The airline seeks to further use SAF by launching green routes in around three years. One challenge is the high price, making it uncertain if greater use of SAF will impact Cebu Pacific’s low-cost business model.

PAL not far behind

Philippine Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, is also working towards developing SAF for its fleet. PAL supports the zero-emission initiative of the International Air Transport Association. PAL is already working on its plan to incorporate SAF into its operations.

PAL began its Net Zero goal quest by shifting to renewable energy for the electricity supply of its major offices and has started working on the potential use of SAF to power its fleet.

A local company, Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc, owned by Enrique Razon, has set up a new subsidiary for its waste-to-fuel project being developed in partnership with WasteFuel Global.

WasteFuel, a California-based SAF start-up, aims to have its first biorefinery in the Philippines. WasteFuel Philippines is evaluating the feasibility of putting up a biorefinery in Luzon that would convert 1 million metric tons of municipal waste into 30 million gallons of SAF annually.

The Philippines was chosen as the location because it has a huge feedstock opportunity in municipal waste. Solid waste management remains a problem in the country, especially in Metro Manila, which generates around 10,000 metric tons (MT) of garbage daily.

A biorefinery that will convert solid waste into SAF will make a big impact in reducing solid waste and the related environmental and health hazards, landfill GHG emissions, and fossil fuel use. Setting up the Philippine refinery will cost around US$600 million.

According to a report, NetJets, a leader in private aviation, has committed to buy a minimum of 100 million gallons of SAF from WasteFuel over the next 10 years.