Singapore Airlines (SIA), together with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), has started operating a series of flights between Singapore and San Francisco utilising used cooking oil (UCO)-based bio-jet fuel.

The “green package” flights were the first in the world to combine the use of hydro-processed esters and fatty acids (HEFA)-based biofuels, the fuel-efficient Airbus A350-900 aircraft and optimised flight operations, SIA said in a statement on 3 May.

The first of the 12 flights departed from San Francisco on 1 May and successfully landed in Singapore on 2 May with 206 passengers on board.

The UCO biofuel was produced by California, USA-based AltAir Fuels and supplied and delivered to San Francisco by SkyNRG, in collaboration with North American Fuel Corporation (NAFCO) and EPIC Fuels.

“SIA’s fleet is already among the most modern and fuel-efficient in the world. We now want to push ourselves further and are embarking on this initiative to help promote the use of sustainable biofuel in an operationally and commercially viable manner,” said SIA’s CEO Goh Choon Phong.

Quoting the International Air Transport Association (IATA), SIA said sustainable biofuels – certified safe for use in commercial aviation since 2011 – were a promising technology which would help reduce the aviation industry’s carbon emissions.

In addition to the fuel, the flights would also use optimised flight operations designed to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions, SIA said.

These measures included weather- and aircraft performance-based user-preferred routes during the oceanic phase of the flight, dynamic airborne reroute procedures, 30/30 reduced oceanic separation and time-based arrivals management.

The biofuel initiative was part of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015, which aimed to develop Singapore’s green economy, and they were also intended to raise awareness of sustainable biofuels in aviation and provide insight on the economics, logistical requirements and performance of biofuels.

SIA and CAAS have worked together since 2010 on emissions-reducing initiatives, including the participation in the Asia and Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE) where they flew a demonstration flight that yielded average fuel savings of 6%.