Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) is gearing up to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in two years to support the government’s one per cent blending target.

While Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) plans to start the country’s first commercial-scale SAF plant at Panipat by 2026, MRPL is setting up 20-kilolitre-per-day plant to demonstrate indigenously-developed technology.

The MRPL management is in the process of taking necessary board approvals for the construction of the SAF plant, said Sanjay Varma, who holds additional charge of managing director, MRPL. Subsequently, it will take about two-and-a-half years for setting up the plant at an estimated cost of around ₹450 crore, Varma added.

MRPL has also undertaken a survey with subject matter experts to identify sources for the required quantities of feed for target SAF production including scale up at a later date. 

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Last month, the National Biofuels Coordination Committee, chaired by Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced one per cent SAF blending target for international flights in 2027. This will be enhanced to two per cent in 2028.

SAF refers to waste-derived aviation fuel. It is produced from various sources such as used cooking oil, agricultural waste, fats or non-food crops.

Technology used

IOC will use LanzaJet’s alcohol-to-jet technology to produce SAF in a 50:50 joint venture. MRPL is relying on CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum’s single-step process that converts used cooking oil or palm waste to produce SAF. 

CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum has produced more than 14,000 litres of SAF on a pilot basis in Dehradun and the fuel has been approved for use in Indian Air Force aircraft with a 10 per cent blend since 2021. The process for securing the ASTM International certification is underway. Once approved, the fuel can be used 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. 

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While steps are being initiated to produce the green fuel, the development is not without challenges. Currently, the cost of SAF is almost three-five times the cost of fossil fuel, depending on the feedstock and production pathway. Also, industry executives point out there is no clarity on SAF pricing. An another challenge cited by the government is about sourcing of feedstock in a cost-effective manner. While feedstock is plentiful, the infrastructure needed to collect, sort, transport and store these materials in a cost-effective way remains underdeveloped.

In fact, at the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s meeting in Dubai last month, India proposed that decision on quantifiable targets for SAF be further analysed and taken in 2025.

Yet, despite concerns from India, China, Saudi Arabia and other countries, ICAO member-states agreed on aspirational goal to reduce C02 emissions in international aviation by 5 per cent by 2030.