Sasol coal takes to the air

Sasol, the world’s leading producer of synthetic fuels from coal and natural gas, says it has become the first company worldwide to receive international approval for its 100% synthetic jet fuel produced by its proprietary Coal to Liquids (CTL) process. Sanctioned by global aviation fuel specification authorities Sasol CTL will be the first fully synthetic fuel to be approved for use in commercial airliners. This marks a significant development in the adoption of clean burning alternative fuels for the aviation industry; engine-out emissions of Sasol’s jet fuel are lower than those from jet fuel derived from crude oil due to its limited sulphur content. Approval of Sasol’s CTL fuel for commercial aviation is also a milestone in the effort to secure domestic energy supply for South Africa and other countries with significant domestic coal and natural gas reserves; Sasol’s transformative technology will allow these countries to monetize natural resources and increase energy security.

Commenting on the announcement, Pat Davies, CE of Sasol said, “This is an historic breakthrough – winning approval for a transportation fuel that is 100% synthetic.  This approval by the international aviation fuel authorities recognises the absolute need to develop aviation fuel from feedstocks other than crude-oil in order to meet the world’s growing needs. Sasol is the global leader and pioneer in advanced synthetic fuel technology and this is a huge step forward toward integrating a viable alternative transportation fuel into the energy mix and showing the way forward for countries seeking security in a world that is thirsty for energy.”

Sasol, for the past nine years, has supplied a fuel mixture comprised of a CTL component blended with crude oil derived kerosene to international airlines operating from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Based on the success of the alternative fuel blend and following a several-year period of rigorous testing and evaluation, international aviation fuel authorities including the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UK MoD), governing the Defence Standard DEFSTAN 91-91, approved Sasol’s wholly synthetic jet fuel as Jet A-1 fuel for commercial use in all types of turbine aircraft.

ASTM International, originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, has also been working closely with the UK MoD and is expected to include Sasol CTL synthetic jet fuel in its ASTM D1655 specification following the publication of the UK’s DEFSTAN 91-91. Jet A-1 according to the DEF STAN 91-91 specification is very similar to Jet A-1 defined by the ASTM D1655 except for a small number of areas where DEF STAN 91-91 is more stringent.

In keeping with the stringent regulation of the Joint Checklist, aviation industry stakeholders, including airframe, engine and ancillary equipment manufacturers; airlines and aviation authorities such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA); and relevant oil companies have all participated in the approval process.

The fuel is fully fungible and aligned with the current aviation infrastructure through its compatibility with the existing engine requirements and can be used with conventional crude oil-derived jet fuelling systems. In addition to the benefiting the end-user, Sasol’s process also enhances value by adding synthetic jet fuel to the product range available to  the resource provider, who will now have another Sasol produced alternative to crude-oil derived fuels.

The current approval covers jet fuel produced at Sasol’s Synfuels facility in Secunda, South Africa. The production in Secunda holds broader implications for the alternative fuel mix as it paves the way for future global production and the use of synthetic fuels for use in transportation. Sasol jet fuel products that will also be submitted for sanction include Oryx GTL plant in Qatar, the joint venture GTL plant in Nigeria and the potential CTL ventures in the USA, China and India.

Research is also underway to find an effective process to produce synthetic fuel from biomass to further improve environmental sustainability.