Aviation leaders launch 100% sustainable fuel emissions study on passenger aircraft

The findings of the study will support efforts currently underway at Airbus and Rolls-Royce to ensure the aviation sector is ready for large-scale use of SAF as part of a wider initiative to decarbonise the industry

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An in-flight emissions study using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a wide-body commercial passenger aircraft, claimed to be the first in the world, has been launched by a team of aerospace specialists.

Airbus, German research centre DLR, Rolls-Royce and SAF producer Neste have teamed up for the project, looking into the effects of 100% SAF on aircraft emissions and performance.

The findings of the study will support efforts currently underway at Airbus and Rolls-Royce to ensure the aviation sector is ready for large-scale use of SAF as part of a wider initiative to decarbonise the industry.

Fuel clearance engine tests, including a first flight to check operational compatibility with the aircraft’s systems, started at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse, France, this week.

That will be followed by the flight emission tests in April, using DLR’s Falcon 20-E ‘chase plane’ to carry out measurements to investigate the impact of sustainable fuel emissions.

Meanwhile, further ground tests measuring particulate matter emissions are set to indicate the environmental impact of SAF use on airport operations, which will be delivered by the UK’s University of Manchester and the National Research Council of Canada.

Both the flight and the ground tests will compare emissions from 100% SAF made from HEFA – hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids – against those produced by fossil kerosene and low-sulphur fossil kerosene, with SAF provided by Neste.

Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager at Airbus said: “SAF is an important part of Airbus’ ambition to decarbonise the aviation industry, ensuring a sustainable future for air travel. It is a ready-to-use solution for current fleets and remains the most viable, long-term solution for long-haul flights where other technologies, such as hybrid-electric and hydrogen, are further from maturity.

“SAF is currently only permitted at up to a 50% volume blend with fossil kerosene but this exciting collaboration between industry, academia and government will provide us with a unique insight into how gas-turbine engines function using 100% SAF. The identification of the potential for emissions reductions, and the environmental impact of using such fuels in flight, will further lay the groundwork for its future certification.”