Rivals Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines team up to source sustainable aviation fuel

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines (SIA), two of Asia’s top aviation firms, have tied up to promote the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the region, a critical initiative for a sector which is facing decarbonisation challenges.

The chief executive officers of the Hong Kong-based and Singapore-based airlines on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding on the sidelines of the 80th International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting and world air transport summit in Dubai to work on sustainability initiatives, the companies said in a joint statement.

The agreement will explore joint procurement of SAF at select locations, advocate supportive policies in the region and help in the creation of a standard global accounting and reporting framework, which ensures transparency and verifiability of reductions of emissions due to usage of aviation fuel.

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The two aviation companies also agreed to exchange best practices for the reduction of single-use plastic, minimisation of waste and improving energy efficiency in ground and cargo operations.

Cathay Pacific continues to make progress towards achieving its goal of using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for 10% of its total fuel use by 2030 by uplifting SAF onto its commercial flights for the very first time outside its Hong Kong hub. Photo: Cathay Pacific

“Our collaboration with Singapore Airlines aims to accelerate and support the development of the SAF supply chain in the region, fostering a reliable sustainable fuel ecosystem to enable the industry to achieve its long-term decarbonisation goals,” said Ronald Lam, Cathay Group CEO.

“Cathay was one of the first airlines in Asia to set a target of 10 per cent SAF for its total fuel consumption by 2030 and we are undertaking a multipronged approach to contribute to the aviation industry’s transition towards a greener future.”

SIA is committed to embedding sustainability in all aspects of its operations, said its CEO Goh Choon Phong.

“Our partnership with Cathay signifies our mutual ambition to enhance collaboration in sustainability initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Goh. “Together we are helping to set the foundation for a more sustainable aviation industry and ensure that future generations continue to reap the benefits of air travel.”

Although aviation accounted for just 2 per cent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2022, it faces significant challenges in living up to its pledge of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, as agreed by its 320 member airlines, according to Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA noted that despite reductions in flying during the Covid-19 lockdowns, demand is expected to grow rapidly through 2030. It added that while new aircraft could be up to 20 per cent more efficient than the models they are replacing, the demand for flights have historically outpaced efficiency improvements.

SAF has the potential to reduce more than 80 per cent of life cycle carbon emissions, although due to its low production volumes, SAF typically costs three to five times as much as traditional jet fuel, according to industry media AvBuyer.

Green aviation fuels include biofuels produced from agricultural or forestry residues, algae, bio-waste, used cooking oil or certain animal fats, and recycled jet fuels produced from waste gases and waste plastic, according to its legal definition. Food crop-based fuels and fuels derived from palm and soy materials are excluded.

SAF also includes synthetic fuels such as e-kerosene, produced by combining captured carbon dioxide with hydrogen made from water and renewable electricity. It is considered the world’s first sustainable, zero-carbon alternative to traditional jet fuel.

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