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Japan to create bio jet fuel supply chain in clean energy push

Government to start imports this fall; rollout expected in 2023

Japan is scrambling to catch up with Europe and the U.S. in offering environmentally friendly jet fuel, vowing to replace 10% of standard aviation fuel with biofuel. (Photo by Koji Uema) 

TOKYO -- Japan will begin developing a supply network for bio jet fuel, aiming to make the fuel available across the country next year, as countries around the world work to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from aviation, Nikkei has learned.

Infrastructure for handling sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will be built at Chubu Centrair International Airport in Aichi Prefecture, in central Japan.

Bio jet fuel is made from renewable materials such as biomass and waste resources. Mixing SAF with conventional petroleum-based jet fuel reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 70% to 90%. The Japanese government will take the lead in importing the eco-friendly fuel and in building storage facilities.

Japanese airlines are under pressure to use SAF. Use of such fuel is already mandatory in Europe, for instance. The Japanese government wants to facilitate adoption of the fuel in Japan by developing the infrastructure needed to handle it. Bio jet fuel is expected to cost up to 10 times more than conventional fuel.

The government will begin with a two-month trial, with flight routes and storage methods evaluated using test aircraft. The test will involve 60 kl of bio jet fuel. Once the testing is complete at Chubu Centrair, SAF will be made available to other airports, such as Narita Airport near Tokyo, in the fiscal year beginning in April 2023 or later.

The fuel will be imported by trading house Itochu from Finland's Neste in the spring of 2023 and distributed to Japanese and foreign airlines.

Use of SAF totaled 63,000 kl worldwide in 2020, or less than 1% of total jet fuel consumption. In 2021, the European Union put together a plan mandating use of bio jet fuel. Also last year, the U.S. unveiled tax breaks for producers of SAF.

Japan is scrambling to catch up with other countries in offering the environmentally friendly jet fuel, vowing to replace 10% of aviation fuel with SAF. Japan's jet fuel consumption totaled 13.15 million kiloliters in 2019.

Japanese oil companies are also working toward the commercial launch of SAF in Japan. JGC Holdings and Cosmo Oil will build plants to produce SAF, starting in 2025.

The Japanese government is placing priority on creating supply networks and ensuring a steady supply of fuel from overseas. "It is not realistic to assume that such fuel can be entirely provided domestically," a transport ministry official said.

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