Logistics

India awaits ASTM approval for aviation biofuels

M Ramesh | Updated on: May 25, 2022
A file photo of a Bombardier Inc. Q400 aircraft operated by SpiceJet Ltd. at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in Delhi, on August 27, 2018. SpiceJet had completed its maiden flight using a blend of aviation fuel and oil from jatropha seeds. - Bloomberg

A file photo of a Bombardier Inc. Q400 aircraft operated by SpiceJet Ltd. at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in Delhi, on August 27, 2018. SpiceJet had completed its maiden flight using a blend of aviation fuel and oil from jatropha seeds. - Bloomberg | Photo Credit: ANINDITO MUKHERJEE

A consortium of a public sector refiner is working on a project to put up a demonstration plant for producing sustainable aviation fuels

India is proceeding with the formalities of obtaining what is called the “ASTM D4054” certification to be able to mix indigenous aviation biofuels with ATF for commercial aviation. The process of getting the certification is on—it might take a year to complete subject to fulfilment of applicable requirements. By the time the certification happens, a consortium of a public sector refiner in south India, Indian Institute of Petroleum and Engineers India Ltd would have already finalized a project to put up a demonstration plant capable of producing about 15,000 litres per day of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) based on bio-derived sources.

In a conversation with Business Line, Dr Anjan Ray, Director, CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), Dehradun, which is one of the government of India-supported autonomous research bodies under the umbrella of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said that the process of getting the certification and building a commercial-scale demonstration plant were running in parallel. 

The certification is for establishing that the aviation biofuel itself, as well as the process of manufacturing it, both conform to ASTM D4054 standards.   These standards have been set up ASTM International (formerly, American Society for Testing and Materials), founded in 1898. 

It is the responsibility of the technology provider – in this case, CSIR-IIP to secure the certification, Dr Ray said.  

Bombardier Q400 aircraft

In August 2018, a 75-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft that belonged to SpiceJet flew between Dehradun and Delhi for 45 minutes, with a “25 per cent blended fuel” in one engine; the other engine was operated on pure ATF.

Ever since, the expectation is that biofuels will enter commercial aviation (the Indian Air Force has started using blended fuels at 10 per cent levels), bringing a bouquet of benefits such as reduced emissions, savings in the national oil import bill and generating income for the farming community.

This will happen, but there is a process to be gone through, part of which is securing the ASTM D4054 clearance.  

A Delhi-Mumbai commercial flight consumes about 3,500 liters of ATF. A 10 per cent blend is a substantial saving in ATF.  

Biofuels more expensive

Today, biofuels are about two-and-a-half times more expensive than ATF, but when produced on a commercial scale (not a pilot scale), the costs are expected to be on par with ATF.  

Dr Ray expects India to be consuming six lakh kilolitres of aviation grade biofuels a year, by 2030. For this, the feedstock supply chain should gear up to meet the demand. Technically the best biofuel for aviation by the CSIR-IIP process, Dr Ray said, is coconut oil, which is both expensive and edible and therefore avoidable, but SAF can be made with jatropha, carinate, fish oil or used cooking oil too.

Published on May 25, 2022
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