Sasol takes to the skies with the world’s first fully synthetic jet fuel


Sasol, a leading producer of synthetic fuels from coal and natural gas, scored a world first this week by flying a passenger aircraft exclusively on synthetic jet fuel. The fuel, produced by Sasol’s proprietary Coal to Liquids (CTL) process, is the world’s only fully synthetic jet fuel so far to have received international approval as a commercial aviation turbine fuel.

“This marks a significant development in the adoption of clean burning alternate fuels for the aviation industry. The engine-out emissions of Sasol’s synthetic jet fuel, are lower than those from jet fuel derived from crude oil, due to its limited sulphur content,” the company says in a media statement.

The flights, from Lanseria Airport near Johannesburg to Cape Town, kicked-off Sasol’s 60th birthday celebrations, and included fly-past at the opening of the Africa Aerospace and Defense (AAD) 2010 exhibition at Cape Town’s Ysterplaat Air Force Base on Tuesday. Speaking from the air force base, where he landed on one of the inaugural flights, Sasol Chief executive, Pat Davies, said the event was a fitting manner to celebrate the company’s diamond anniversary. “The development and approval of this fuel is a testament to Sasol’s 60 years of technical innovation and is an important milestone in the company’s history. The approval by the international aviation fuel authorities, of this product, recognises the need to develop aviation fuel from feedstocks other than crude-oil, in order to meet the world’s growing needs”, Davies said.
“Sasol’s advances in synthetic fuel technology have brought us even closer to integrating viable alternate transportation fuel into the energy mix”, he added. In 1998, Sasol became the first company in the world to gain approval for the commercial use of a 50% synthetic jet fuel component, which was blended with petroleum kerosene. To date, most of the aircraft leaving O.R Tambo International Airport have flown using Sasol’s semi-synthetic jet fuel.

Spurred on by the world’s growing need for alternative fuels, Sasol continued with years of extensive test work and research that culminated in the production of the 100% synthetic jet fuel.

In 2008, 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.

Managing director of Sasol Technology, Willem Louw, said the approval process was stringent.
“A number of aviation stakeholders, including airframe, engine and ancillary equipment manufacturers; airlines and aviation authorities such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA); and relevant oil companies, were involved in the approval of this fuel”, he said.
“While this has been a long journey, the delivery of a viable alternate jet fuel solution that meets with the strict specifications of global aviation authorities, is a proud acknowledgement of the enormous talent and expertise within the Sasol Technology business”.

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.

Pic: SASOL’s Secunda plant