In the future, Indian airlines may be required to blend traditional jet fuel with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). To reduce the carbon footprint of India's aviation sector, the aviation and petroleum ministries are working together to investigate technologies and adequate sourcing of SAF to make it more affordable for airlines.
According to India's Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal, the government may consider mandating the blending of traditional and sustainable aviation fuel for all Indian carriers in the coming years. He stated that the Ministry of Civil Aviation is collaborating with the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to establish a blending percentage.
For months, both ministries have been working on a SAF roadmap, realizing that Indian aviation cannot remain disconnected from global sustainability requirements for long. Bansal stated at the IATA Aviation Energy Forum that SAF-related discussions are still ongoing and that various factors, such as feedstock and production, must be considered before any rules are implemented.
“Do we as a country have adequate feedstock for producing SAF? Are there technologies in place, proven, time-tested which will be able to produce SAF in quantities? And if I may say at a price the airlines can afford,” Rajiv Bansal said.
Tata Group airlines setting a standard
SpiceJet operated a flight using blended fuels in 2018 and IndiGo operated a delivery flight, but more efforts are needed to propel SAF on a larger scale.
In September, three Tata Group airlines – Air India, AirAsia India, and Vistara – signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Indian Institute of Petroleum to collaborate on SAF research, development, and deployment.
This collaboration would look into Single Reactor HEFA Technology for Drop-in liquid Sustainable Aviation and Automotive Fuel (DIL SAAF), which can be added to aircraft tanks without requiring any modifications.
Green potential in India
Airbus is working on the world's first zero-emission aircraft, and India has stated that it will play an important role in the design, research, and development stages. It also believes that India has the potential to be a significant market for SAF.
Julien Manhes, Airbus's head of Sustainable Fuel Projects, told in September that 63% of the Indian fleet consists of fuel-efficient new-generation aircraft, which is a significant step toward energy conservation. Pratt & Whitney, which has been developing a hybrid electric engine for some time, sees a market in India's regional aviation sector as well. It intends to conduct flight tests in two years, most likely on a De Havilland-8 plane, and sees potential for use on several regional flights in India in the coming years.