Posted on 19 Jul 2023
Source of News: The Borneo Post

KUCHING (July 19): Algae Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), the new buzzword in the renewable energy and aviation sectors, is part of the Sarawak government’s vision for a green economy as stated under its Post-Covid Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030.

Algae SAF covers the PCDS 2030 pillars; namely economic prosperity, social inclusivity and environmental sustainability, said SEDC Energy chief executive officer Robert Hardin in a special interview.

SEDC Energy, a subsidiary company of Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), had inked an agreement with Petronas Research (PRSB), a subsidiary of Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas), to develop the technology for microalgae oil production.

Under the terms of the agreement, PRSB and SEDC Energy will jointly develop algae production technology that includes cultivation, harvesting and extraction of crude algae oil which will later be refined to produce the algae SAF.

SEDC Energy is supporting the vision of the Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg to use new alternative and cleaner energy.

The company is also committed to drive a ‘new energy’ ecosystem within the state of Sarawak, he added.

“In this context, SEDC Energy is taking an active role in new energy solutions, particularly green, that echoes from the state’s PCDS 2030. So, fossil or conventional fuels aside, solutions from hydrogen or even from biomass, for instance algae, would be a part of that push.

“So, seeing the state is having green goals in mind, it is only natural that SEDC Energy looks into all these green opportunities in the whole energy transition move. SEDC Energy is looking at diversifying Sarawak’s potential, and all this of course is based on the decarbonisation goals and green economy push, with environmental sustainability in mind,” Hardin added.

Algae crude oil is a new commodity with huge economic potential, Hardin said, while expressing his confidence that algae farming can be introduced to local farmers to increase potential job and business opportunities.

Algae SAF usage could also contribute to the much needed reduction in green house gasses (or GHG) by 2030, he said, adding it is now part of the global aviation industry goals to attain carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Achieving net zero by 2050 will require a combination of maximum elimination of emissions at the source, offsetting and carbon capture technologies,” he said.

He said SAF presents itself as the future fuel for the industry with its sustainable and renewable nature of the feedstock.

On how to produce algae SAF cost-efficiently, Hardin said the price of algae SAF is projected to reduce with the advancement in technology.

“We are currently working with technology partners to further enhance the overall production yield and reducing cost of algae based SAF production by exploring the potential of locally manufacturing equipment for commercial farming so as to reduce costs from importing equipment from other countries, and upscaling to large scale commercial farming to reduce the overall production cost.”

Sarawak also has an abundance of natural resources required for algae farming, namely sunlight and water.

The availability of these two resources ensures algae farming in Sarawak is maintained at a minimum rate, reducing production costs further, he stressed.

“With the points above, it can also be seen as contributing factor to the overall multiplier effect where it will indefinitely create local job opportunities for the Sarawakian talents and increased investments into Sarawak,” Hardin said.

Algae SAF augurs well for the future generation, he added.

“With Algae SAF being introduced locally and internationally, this will help in the reduction in GHG emissions in the aviation industry and ultimately leads to the ‘Sustainable Skies of Sarawak’ era,” Hardin said.

The introduction of another alternative to renewable oil resource – crude algae oil – would help improve the local economy through the participation of locals in algae farming, he said about its impact on future generations.

This is due to the ease of cultivation of algae and potential accessibility to alga culture, he explained.

Abang Johari launched the first aeroplane, a Latvian Air Baltic A220 airbus, that used the Sarawak algae SAF in its mixed fuel at the Kuching International Airport (KIA) here on May 22 this year.

He then made history by boarding the airbus to fly to Kedah for this year’s Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima 2023) and to witness the signing of agreement on developing the technology of producing algae SAF.

On a related development, Sarawak is planning to scale up the cultivation of microalgae from 1,000 acres to 10,000 acres in Bintulu.

This was disclosed by Abang Johari during his visit to the one-acre algae nursery site located at Demak Laut Industrial Park here on June 15 this year.

The 1,000 acres can produce 500,000 tonnes per annum of crude algae oil or renewable oil equivalent to 10,000 barrels per day, he said.

The Sarawak government is also planning to set up a test lab to carry out research on algae cultivation for biofuels production.

Abang Johari said this was in line with the state’s efforts to explore the production of SAF and its vision to be main producer in the region.

He pointed out that the coastal region of Sarawak is where mangrove forests – of which algae plays a vital role in its ecosystem – is dominant.

“It is from that area that we can produce a lot of algae and how much of this can be produced is what we have to conduct a study on. That is why I want to sponsor to carry out the research. The moment we can produce (the algae), then the SAF can be produced,” he said at a function here on June 7.

He had estimated the research could take between two and three years.

The Borneo Post

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