Sasol in fully synthetic jet fuel first

27 September 2010

South African petrochemicals company Sasol has flown the world’s first passenger aircraft using internationally approved 100% synthetic jet fuel, a milestone in the development of cleaner-burning alternate fuels for the aviation industry.

The airliner flew from Lanseria Airport outside Johannesburg to Cape Town on Wednesday, staging a fly-past at the opening of the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2010 exhibition at Ysterplaat Air Force Base before landing at Cape Town International Airport.

The fuel, produced using Sasol’s proprietary coal-to-liquids process, is the only fully synthetic jet fuel to have received approval from the global aviation fuel specification authorities for use in commercial airliners.

The South African company is the world’s leading producer of synthetic fuels from coal and natural gas

“This marks a significant development in the adoption of clean-burning alternate fuels for the aviation industry,” Sasol said in a statement on Wednesday. “The engine-out emissions of Sasol’’ synthetic jet fuel are lower than those from jet fuel derived from crude oil, due to its limited sulphur content.”

Sasol CEO Pat Davies said the international authorities’ approval of the jet fuel “recognises the need to develop aviation fuel from feedstocks other than crude-oil, in order to meet the world’s growing needs.

“Sasol’s advances in synthetic fuel technology have brought us even closer to integrating viable alternate transportation fuel into the energy mix.”

In 1998, Sasol became the first company in the world to gain approval for the commercial use of a 50% synthetic jet fuel component, which was blended with petroleum kerosene. Since then, most of the aircraft leaving Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport have flown using Sasol’s semi-synthetic jet fuel.

In 2008, international aviation fuel authorities, including the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, governing the Defence Standard DEFSTAN 91-91, approved Sasol’s 100% synthetic jet fuel as Jet A-1 fuel, for commercial use in all types of turbine aircraft.

Managing director of Sasol Technology, Willem Louw, said the approval process was stringent.

“A number of aviation stakeholders, including airframe, engine and ancillary equipment manufacturers; airlines and aviation authorities such as the International Air Transport Association; and relevant oil companies, were involved in the approval of this fuel”, he said.

The fuel is fully fungible and aligned with the current aviation infrastructure through its compatibility with the existing engine requirements, and can be used with conventional crude oil-derived jet fuelling systems.

“Through Sasol’s advanced technology and our innovative spirit, we have delivered a world first and … we look forward to the many innovations that lie ahead,” Davies said.

SAinfo reporter

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