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  • Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore

Airside vehicles begin trialing renewable diesel at Singapore Changi Airport

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced May 13 that it is working with airport stakeholders to conduct trials on the use of renewable diesel for heavy and specialized airside vehicles operating at Singapore Changi Airport, as part of its larger effort to decarbonize 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 specialized vehicles and ground-support equipment at Changi Airport, including Changi Airport Group, Dubai National Air Travel Agency, SATS and SIA Engineering Co., 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 specialized 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 Program to help companies defray the cost of using renewable diesel, which, according to CAAS, can be up to three times more expensive than fossil diesel, and the cost of emissions testing and logistical support. 


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.


The transition to cleaner energy 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,” according to CAAS—many of the over 1,800 heavy and specialized vehicles and ground-support equipment at Changi Airport airside have few viable electric options.


A key near-term decarbonization pathway for such vehicles is the use of biofuels, and in particular renewable diesel. 


Renewable diesel has up to 95 percent 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 utilizes 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 decarbonization goals. 


These renewable diesel trials are eligible for cofunding under the Aviation Sustainability Program.


The first to kick-start trials supported under the program is DNATA, a ground handler at Changi Airport.


On April 26, DNATA commenced a six-month trial using Esso Renewable Diesel R20 made with minimum 20 percent renewable content to power a range of specialized 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.  


Set up in March 2023, the $50 million Aviation Sustainability Program supports sustainable aviation projects with up to 70 percent funding for sector-wide projects and up to 50 percent funding for company-level projects.


Thus far, the program has supported four sustainability projects from its first call for proposal.


Besides the renewable diesel trials, the program 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 (SAF).


To further catalyze private-sector action for decarbonization, CAAS is conducting a second call for proposals May 14 to Sept. 30.


Examples of projects the Aviation Sustainability Program could support include the adoption of novel or more energy-efficient airport systems and/or equipment; optimization 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 inquire more may contact CAAS at   


“CAAS thanks our aviation-ecosystem stakeholders for working with us on the trials to use renewable diesel for heavy and specialized airside vehicles operating at Singapore Changi Airport for which there are no or few viable electric options,” said Han Kok Juan, the director-general of CAAS. “The trials underscore Singapore’s firm commitment to decarbonize our aviation sector and exemplify our practical, action-oriented and collaborative approach. We are leaning forward to support industry in their decarbonization 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 proposals will further catalyze efforts to decarbonize the aviation sector.”   


Koh Ming Sue, CAG’s executive vice president of engineering and development, said, “CAG’s vehicle-decarbonization 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 trialing the use of renewable diesel for a select group of heavy and specialized vehicles to study their operating reliability, sustainability performance, cost efficiency and maintenance requirements. We welcome CAAS’s 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.”  


Charles Galloway, DNATA’s regional CEO for Asia Pacific, added, “We are thrilled to join forces with CAAS and take an active part in the industry’s decarbonization efforts. These trials will help us optimize 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 decarbonizing our ground operations at Changi Airport.”


Bob Chi, CEO 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 optimize our environmental performance. Earlier this year, SATS trialed the use of renewable diesel on several specialized airport vehicles at the Singapore Airshow in February. With CAAS support, SATS will next be trialing the use of renewable diesel on selected heavy and specialized ground-services vehicles at Changi Airport’s airside soon. Our team will be collating, analyzing the engine-operating data and assessing the logistics and economics of deploying renewable diesel in ground operations on a scalable basis.”


Foo Kean Shuh, SIAEC’s executive vice president of operations and chief sustainability officer, said, “Renewable diesel is one of the decarbonization 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 familiarize 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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