The aviation manufacturer test flew one of its Trent engines using 100% non-blended SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel)
As most of you are (hopefully) aware, climate change is a major challenge facing the future of the human race. Industries across the board are rushing to implement measures to reduce their carbon emissions, and the aviation industry is no different. So, the news that manufacturer Rolls-Royce has test flown one of its engines using 100% sustainable SAF, comes as a massive step forward for the industries climate action goals. This Tuesday, the company tweeted “we’ve flown our 747 Flying Test Bed with one engine using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel.” What is SAF? I hear you ask. Well, SAF is a form of aviation fuel produced through carbon neutral methods. These include extracting from waste oils which have a biological origin. SAF is a ‘drop in fuel’, meaning it can be added to existing aviation fuel to reduce the amount of carbon emitting fuel used by an aircraft. The important thing about SAF, is that instead of pumping more C02 into the atmosphere through fossil fuels, it only recycles carbon that’s already present – causing a drop in emissions per flight of up to 80%. This makes it the carbon neutral fuel of choice for airlines, and an aviation industry committed to achieving carbon neutrality. Achieving carbon neutrality is a central part of the industry wide Climate Action Framework, which seeks to stabilise emissions at 2020 levels by achieving carbon neutral growth. Coming after the Biden administration announced the launch of the SAF ‘Grand Challenge’ (to produce three billion gallons of the fuel by 2030), Rolls-Royce seem keen to do their part in reducing aviation emissions. The company’s director of product development and technology, Simon Burr, stated how “This flight is another example of collaboration across the value chain to make sure all the aircraft technology solutions are in place to enable a smooth introduction of 100 percent SAF into our industry.”
The news from Rolls-Royce comes as a step forward in SAF technology. Previously, SAF has mainly been used as a blended fuel, in conjunction with existing aviation fuel. Rolls-Royce look set to change this, however, by completing a test flight using 100% SAF in one of its Trent 1000 turbofan engines. The flight took the companies 747 Testbed over Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. While the Trent engine utilised SAF, its other three RB211 engines flew on standard aviation fuel. This factor signals that there may still be a ways to go before flights utilise 100% SAF on all engines, however it is still a massive step in the right direction. The flight should also be seen as a collaborative effort, with Boeing ensuring the reliability of the aforementioned aircraft, and the jet fuel being provided by World Energy. Another factor to note is that World energy are currently the only company producing SAF on a commercial scale. This indicates quite a large hurdle for the complete adoption of SAF, the supply will eventually have to meet the inevitable demand through further industry adoption.