South Africa's Sasol claims world’s first commercial aircraft flight to be fully fuelled with synthetic jet fuel
Fuelling the Boeing 737-200 with Sasol's fully synthetic jet fuel
Thu 23 Sept 2010 – Formed in 1950 to produce oil from South Africa’s coal reserves, Sasol celebrated its 60th anniversary with flights from Lanseria Airport near Johannesburg to Cape Town using 100 percent synthetic jet fuel produced from the company’s proprietary coal-to-liquid (CTL) process. Sasol claims its CTL fuel is the world’s first fully synthetic jet fuel to have received international approval by the global aviation fuel specification authorities as a commercial aviation turbine fuel. The company says the flights mark a significant development in the adoption of clean burning alternative fuels for the aviation industry. Although lifecycle assessment studies show CTL jet fuels have higher carbon emissions than conventional kerosene derived from crude oil, Sasol says the engine-out emissions of its fuel are lower due to a limited sulphur content.
The inaugural flights included a fly-past to coincide with the opening of the Africa Aerospace and Defense exhibition at Cape Town’s Ysterplaat Air Force Base. The four aircraft used were chartered for the occasion and included a Pratt & Whitney JT7-D powered Boeing 737-200, a Hawker 4000 (P&W-powered) – both of which carried passengers – and a King Air 350 and P-750 XSTOL light turboprop aircraft.
Onboard one of the flights was Sasol Chief Executive Pat Davies, who said afterwards: “The development and approval of this fuel is a testament to Sasol’s 60 years of technical innovation and is an important milestone in the company’s history. The approval by the international aviation fuel authorities of this product, recognizes 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.”
Sasol is the world’s leading producer of synthetic fuels from coal and natural gas, with operations in around 30 countries. In 1998, it became the first company to gain approval for the commercial use of a 50% synthetic jet fuel component blended with kerosene. Sasol says most of the aircraft departing Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport fly with its semi-synthetic jet fuel.
In 2008, Sasol’s wholly synthetic fuel received approval as Jet A-1 fuel for commercial use in all types of turbine aircraft by international fuel authorities, including the UK’s DEFSTAN 91-91. The company says the drop-in fuel is fully fungible and aligned with the current aviation infrastructure through its compatibility with existing engine requirements and can be used with conventional crude oil-derived jet fuelling systems.
“A number of aviation stakeholders, including airframe, engine and ancillary equipment manufacturers; airlines and aviation authorities such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA); and relevant oil companies, were involved in the approval of this fuel,” said Willem Louw, Managing Director of Sasol Technology.
“While this has been a long journey, the delivery of a viable alternate jet fuel solution that meets with the strict specifications of global aviation authorities, is a proud acknowledgement of the enormous talent and expertise within the Sasol Technology business.”
A spokesperson for Sasol said there were no current plans for the commercial production of fully synthetic jet fuels.