Sasol synfuel in world aviation first

10 April 2008

South African petrochemical company Sasol has scored another world first, receiving international approval for its 100% synthetic jet fuel, produced through its proprietary coal-to-liquids (CTL) process, to be used by commercial airliners at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

In a statement issued this week, Sasol said that usage of its CTL fuel marked a significant development in the adoption of clean burning alternative fuels for the aviation industry, with the engine-out emissions of Sasol’s jet fuel being lower than those from jet fuel derived from crude oil, due to its limited sulphur content.

In addition, the approval is also a milestone in the effort to secure domestic energy supply for South Africa and other countries with significant domestic coal and natural gas reserves, as Sasol’s transformative technology would allow these countries to monetise natural resources and increase energy security.

“This is an historic breakthrough – winning approval for a transportation fuel that is 100% synthetic,” said Sasol CEO Pat Davies. “This approval by the international aviation fuel authorities recognizes the absolute need to develop aviation fuel from feedstocks other than crude-oil in order to meet the world’s growing needs.”

Vigorous testing

Over the past nine years, Sasol has supplied a fuel mixture comprised of a CTL component blended with crude oil derived kerosene to international airlines operating from OR Tambo International Airport outside Johannesburg.

Based on the success of the alternative fuel blend and following a several-year period of rigorous testing and evaluation, international aviation fuel authorities, including the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, approved Sasol’s wholly synthetic jet fuel as Jet A-1 fuel for commercial use in all types of turbine aircraft.

In keeping with the stringent regulation, aviation industry stakeholders including airframe, engine and ancillary equipment manufacturers; airlines and aviation authorities such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA); and relevant oil companies have all participated in the approval process.

The fuel is fully compatible 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.

“In addition to the benefiting the end-user, Sasol’s process also enhances value by adding synthetic jet fuel to the product range available to the resource provider, who will now have another Sasol produced alternative to crude-oil derived fuels,” Sasol said.

Approved facilities

The current approval only covers jet fuel produced at Sasol’s Synfuels facility in Secunda, in the Mpumalanga province. The production in Secunda holds broader implications for the alternative fuel mix as it paves the way for future global production and the use of synthetic fuels for use in transportation.

Sasol jet fuel products that will also be submitted for sanction include Oryx gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Qatar, the joint venture GTL plant in Nigeria and the potential CTL ventures in the USA, China and India.

Research is also underway to find an effective process to produce synthetic fuel from biomass to further improve environmental sustainability.

“Sasol is the global leader and pioneer in advanced synthetic fuel technology and this is a huge step forward toward integrating a viable alternative transportation fuel into the energy mix and showing the way forward for countries seeking security in a world that is thirsty for energy,” said Davies.

Using SAinfo material Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?
See: Using SAinfo material