Trials to use Renewable Diesel for Airside Vehicles commence at Singapore Changi Airport

13 May 2024

CAAS also issues new call for proposal for other initiatives to decarbonise the Singapore aviation sector

        The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is working with airport stakeholders to conduct trials on the use of renewable diesel for heavy and specialised airside vehicles operating at Singapore Changi Airport, as part of its larger effort to decarbonise the Singapore aviation sector. The trials will help Singapore develop the supply chain and procurement processes for using renewable diesel at Changi 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), which will work together as a community and exchange learning points. The trials are expected to last one year and 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. 

2       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 vehicles. 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. 

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

4       These renewable diesel 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. CAG, SATS and SIAEC will conduct similar trials on their own equipment and for their operations over the next few months.  

5       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.

6       To further catalyse private sector action for aviation decarbonisation, CAAS is conducting a 2nd Call-for-Proposal from 14 May 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. Interested parties that wish to submit proposals or enquire more may contact CAAS at   

7       Mr Han Kok Juan, Director-General of CAAS said, “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. 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.”   

8       Mr Koh Ming Sue, Executive Vice President, Engineering & Development of CAG said, “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. 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.”  

9       Mr Charles Galloway, Regional Chief Executive Officer for Asia Pacific, dnata, said, “We are thrilled to join forces with CAAS and take an active part in the industry’s decarbonisation efforts. 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.”

10       Mr Bob Chi, Chief Executive Officer of SATS Gateway Services, said, “SATS has been early adopters of various carbon reduction initiatives, including electrification and the use of solar panels to strengthen our airport operational resilience as well as optimise our environmental performance. Earlier this year, SATS trialled the use of renewable diesel on several specialized airport vehicles at the Singapore Airshow in February 2024. With CAAS support, SATS will next be trialling the use of renewable diesel on selected heavy and specialised ground services vehicles at Changi Airport’s airside soon. Our team will be collating, analysing the engine operating data and assessing the logistics and economics of deploying renewable diesel in ground operations on a scalable basis.”

11       Mr Foo Kean Shuh, Executive Vice President Operations and Chief Sustainability Officer of SIAEC said, “Renewable diesel is one of the decarbonisation levers that SIAEC is evaluating to halve our carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Conducting this trial will allow SIAEC to familiarise ourselves with using renewable diesel and verify its compatibility with our existing and future equipment. SIAEC continues to work closely with CAAS and other partners on the adoption of renewable diesel at Changi Airport.”



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