dnata airside vehicles at Changi. Picture: CAAS. Click to enlarge.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)
is conducting trials with airport stakeholders on the use of
renewable diesel for heavy and specialised airside vehicles
operating at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN).

The trials will help Singapore develop the supply
chain and procurement processes for using renewable diesel at the
airport and evaluate renewable diesel’s operating performance
vis-à-vis conventional fossil diesel, including the requirements
and frequencies of vehicular and equipment maintenance.

The trials will involve all key stakeholders
operating specialised vehicles and ground support equipment at
Changi Airport, including Changi Airport Group (CAG), dnata, SATS
and SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC).

Expected to last one year, the trials will inform
deliberation on future adoption of renewable diesel to power the
heavy and specialised airside vehicle types for which there are no
or few viable electric options.

The trials are eligible for
funding support from CAAS under the Aviation Sustainability
Programme to help companies defray the cost of using renewable
diesel which can be up to three times more expensive than fossil
diesel, and the cost of emissions testing and logistical support.

dnata airside vehicles at Changi. Picture: CAAS

“CAAS thanks our aviation eco-system stakeholders for working with
us on the trials to use renewable diesel for heavy and specialised
airside vehicles operating at Singapore Changi Airport for which
there are no or few viable electric options,” said Han Kok Juan,
Director-General of CAAS. “The trials underscore
Singapore’s firm commitment to decarbonise our aviation sector and
exemplify our practical, action-oriented and collaborative
approach. We are leaning forward to support industry in their
decarbonisation effort, including providing a facilitative
operating environment, coordinating action and helping to defray
the cost. We hope that the example of the renewable diesel trials
and our new call for proposal will further catalyse efforts to
decarbonise the aviation sector.”

CAAS has identified the transition to cleaner
energy for airside vehicles as a key initiative under the
Singapore Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint which was published in
February 2024.

Cleaner energy transition for airside vehicles is
to be achieved through three main pathways: electrification, the
use of biofuels, and exploring the use of hydrogen-powered airside

While electrification, given its maturity and the wide
availability of viable electric vehicle variants, is the main
cleaner energy pathway especially for light vehicles such as cars
and vans, many of the over 1,800 heavy and specialised vehicles
and ground support equipment at Changi Airport airside have few
viable electric options.

A key near-term decarbonisation pathway
for such vehicles is the use of biofuels, and in particular
renewable diesel.

Renewable diesel has up to 95% lower lifecycle
carbon emissions compared to conventional fossil diesel. It can be
used as a “drop in” replacement in existing diesel engines without
modification, and tap the existing transportation, storage, and
distribution infrastructure for diesel, with minimal adjustments.

Renewable diesel can also be blended with fossil diesel in any proportion,
allowing companies to calibrate their investments in cleaner
energy according to their decarbonisation goals.

“CAG’s vehicle decarbonisation strategy involves primarily switching existing
fossil-fuel driven ones to those with established electric
variants in Singapore during their end-of-life replacement,” said Koh
Ming Sue, Executive Vice President, Engineering & Development of
CAG. “For
vehicles without viable electric variants in the near future, the
use of low-emission fuels will be explored. In this respect, CAG
will be trialling the use of renewable diesel for a select group
of heavy and specialised vehicles to study their operating
reliability, sustainability performance, cost efficiency and
maintenance requirements. We welcome CAAS’ initiative to provide
subsidy for these trials as renewable diesel is, in the near term,
the only means to lower emissions in heavier and hard-to-abate
vehicle types essential for airport function.”

The trials are eligible for
co-funding under the Aviation Sustainability Programme. The first
to kick-start trials supported under the Programme is dnata, a
ground handler at Changi Airport.

On 26 April 2024, dnata
commenced a six-month long trial using Esso Renewable Diesel R20
made with minimum 20% renewable content to power a range of specialised ground support equipment and vehicles including
aircraft pushback tractors and transporters.

“We are thrilled to join
forces with CAAS and take an active part in the industry’s decarbonisation efforts,”
said Charles Galloway, Regional Chief Executive Officer for Asia
Pacific, dnata. “These trials will help us optimise our
supply chain processes for the safe introduction and distribution
of renewable diesel to various types of equipment across our
airside operations. Additionally, it will provide valuable
insights into renewable diesel consumption patterns, enabling us
to develop efficient strategies as we progress on decarbonising
our ground operations at Changi Airport.”

will conduct similar trials on their own equipment and for their
operations over the next few months.

Set up in March 2023, the $50 million Aviation
Sustainability Programme supports sustainable aviation projects
with up to 70% funding for sector-wide projects and up to 50%
funding for company-level projects.

Thus far, the Aviation
Sustainability Programme has supported four sustainability
projects from its first call for proposal. Besides the renewable
diesel trials, the programme has also funded studies to support
the electrification of airside vehicles, deployment of solar
panels at the airfield and demand aggregation for Sustainable
Aviation Fuel.

To further catalyse private sector action for
aviation decarbonisation, CAAS is conducting a 2nd
Call-for-Proposal from today, 14 May 2024, to 30 September 2024.

Examples of
projects which the Aviation Sustainability Programme could support
include the adoption of novel or more energy-efficient airport
systems and/or equipment; optimisation of airport processes to
enhance operational efficiency and sustainability of key
processes, such as reducing aircraft turnaround time or improving
airside vehicle movements; and transition to cleaner energy
sources such as testing of new alternative or low carbon fuel.

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