Mangalore Refinery Follows Suit, Firms Up Plans For Sustainable Aviation Fuel Production After Indian Oil

Amit Mishra

Dec 25, 2023, 06:34 PM | Updated 06:34 PM IST

Sustainable aviation. Representative image (petrmalinak/Shutterstock)
Sustainable aviation. Representative image (petrmalinak/Shutterstock)

Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL), a subsidiary of ONGC, has set the ball rolling for the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in two years to support the government’s one per cent blending target.

The MRPL management is in the process of taking necessary board approvals for the construction of the SAF plant. Following approval, the plant is expected to be established in approximately two and a half years, with an estimated cost of around Rs 450 crore, writes the businessline, quoting Sanjay Varma, who holds additional charge of managing director, MRPL.

The move to establish the SAF facility should it be constructed, would help deal with availability issues as global supplies run significantly short of what’s needed by airlines to meet decarbonisation goals. 

State-owned Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has already announced its plan to launch the nation's inaugural commercial-scale SAF plant in Panipat by 2026.

It may be recalled that in November 2023, the National Biofuels Coordination Committee (NBCC), chaired by Union Petroleum Minister, set the initial indicative blending percentage of Sustainable Aviation Fuel in jet fuel, also known as aviation turbine fuel (ATF) at 1 per cent in 2027 and 2 per cent in 2028. These targets will initially apply to international flights.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF, has similar chemistry to jet fuel, but is a clean substitute for fossil jet fuels.

Unlike jet fuels which is derived from crude oil, SAF is produced from renewable sources such as agricultural waste, municipal solid waste, and forestry residues.

This means that SAF has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent compared to conventional jet fuel. As such, it is recognised as offering the most immediate and greatest potential to decarbonise aviation over the next 20-30 years.

In October 2022, member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed to a long-term aspirational goal (LTAG) of net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from aviation by 2050 and SAF has long been seen as the industry’s fastest way to reduce emissions.

However, global output is currently only a fraction of what’s needed and airlines are banking on a huge supply boost.

It is noteworthy that the Panipat refinery, located north of New Delhi and operated by Indian Oil, will employ LanzaJet's established Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) technology. In contrast, MRPL is depending on the single-step process developed by CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum, which converts used cooking oil or palm waste into SAF.

CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum has produced more than 14,000 litres of SAF on a pilot basis in Dehradun. This fuel has already received approval for use in Indian Air Force aircraft, incorporating a 10 per cent blend since 2021. The institute is currently in the process of obtaining ASTM International certification. Upon approval, the certified fuel can be utilised by airlines.

“Almost 80 per cent of the work for certification is complete. We are expecting the approval in another five-six months,” Indian Institute of Petroleum said. 

In the aviation fuel industry, ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) serves as the international standard for jet fuel quality, and plays a crucial role in ensuring safety, quality, and reliability of sustainable aviation fuel.

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