Panama’s economy is about to get a big boost. The government has announced a plan to develop an advanced biorefinery plant in Panama to produce lower-carbon aviation fuel, the next big thing in the international air transportation industry.
Several major energy companies are committed to the project, including SGP BioEnergy. The new facility is expected to produce 180,000 barrels per day (2.6 billion gallons per year) of biofuels, including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable marine diesel, when it is complete at the end of 2026, according to coverage by Reuters. It is expected to be the largest such facility in the world.
This is a big deal in the aviation industry, which has committed to achieving zero net carbon emissions by 2050. Although it is expensive to produce, SAF uses feedstocks including soybean oil and used cooking oil to produce fuel that produces far fewer emissions than traditional petroleum-based jet fuel.
There has been a “flurry” of announcements in recent months, as the industry looks to dramatically increase the availability of SAF. “The airline industry is considered harder to decarbonize than other types of transportation, so a massive ramp-up in SAF output will be needed for aviation to reach net-zero,” Reuters reports.
Now Panama is right in the middle of this booming new industry. The project will bring more high-paying jobs to the country and help support the continued growth of the economy, and Panama real estate, which continues to be resilient, despite the international turmoil.
The project is already moving forward and signing contracts, Randy Letang, chief executive of SGP BioEnergy, told Reuters. The biorefinery will repurpose existing bunker fuel oil terminals on both the Atlantic and Pacific, he said.
“This site is focused on helping the global community principally from an aviation but also from a marine standpoint,” Letang said. There are also business advantages to using the existing facilities instead of building new ones, in addition to the sustainability elements.
“Using what already exists and making adjustments to that, that is the only way that I see that we’re going to meet the scale and meet global demand with this transition in a way that is acceptable and not disruptive,” Letang said.