ECLIF3 SAF study shows ‘promising early results’; Pratt & Whitney, Embraer partner on 100% SAF

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The A350MSN1 FlightLab testing sustainable fuel. (PHOTO: Airbus)

Initial findings from a study of the impact of 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on both engines of a commercial jet have provided promising early results. The ECLIF3 study, involving Airbus, Rolls-Royce, German research centre DLR and SAF producer Neste, marks the first time 100 percent SAF has been measured simultaneously on both engines of a commercial passenger aircraft – an Airbus A350 aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

Airlines like Cathay Pacific are hoping sustainable aviation fuel can be scaled up to help cut carbon emissions. (PHOTO: Via Cathay Pacific)

In-flight emissions tests and associated ground testing on the ECLIF3 programme began earlier this year and have recently resumed. The interdisciplinary team, which also includes researchers from the National Research Council of Canada and The University of Manchester, plans to publish its results in academic journals towards the end of next year and 2023. Findings from the study will support efforts currently underway at Airbus and Rolls-Royce to ensure the aviation sector is ready for the large-scale use of SAF as part of the wider initiative to decarbonise the industry. Aircraft are currently only allowed to operate on a 50 percent blend of SAF and conventional jet fuel, but both companies support the drive to certify 100 percent SAF use.

In April, the A350 flew three flights over the Mediterranean Sea pursued by a DLR Falcon chaser plane to compare in-flight emissions of both kerosene and Neste’s hydro-processed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) sustainable fuel. The team also carried out compliance tests using 100 percent SAF and no operational issues were experienced. In-flight emission tests using 100 percent SAF and a HEFA/Jet A-1 fuel blend resumed last month, while ground-based emissions testing to quantify the benefits of SAF on local air quality were also performed. The research team found SAF releases fewer particulates than conventional kerosene at all tested engine operating conditions, which points to the potential for reduced climate impact and improvement in air quality around airports.

In addition, SAF has lower density but higher energy content per kilogram of fuel compared to conventional kerosene, which brings some aircraft fuel-efficiency advantages due to lower fuel burn and less fuel mass to board to achieve the same mission. Detailed analysis by the team is on-going. “Engines and fuel systems can be tested on the ground but the only way to gather the full set of emissions data necessary for this programme to be successful is to fly an aircraft in real conditions,” said Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager at Airbus. “In-flight testing of the A350 offers the advantage of characterising direct and indirect engine emissions,  including particulates from behind an aircraft at high altitude.”

Pratt & Whitney, Embraer partner on 100% SAF

(PHOTO: Embraer)

Pratt & Whitney announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Embraer to collaborate on studies of 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Technical teams from the two companies will engage to define an integrated ground and flight test plan for 100 percent SAF in a GTF-powered Embraer E195-E2 aircraft. The initiative reflects Pratt & Whitney’s and Embraer’s shared commitment to supporting the aviation industry’s ambitious environmental goals, including the goal of reaching net zero CO2 emissions for air travel by 2050. Alongside efforts to continually improve aircraft and engine efficiency, SAFs have a critical role to play towards decarbonising air travel by reducing dependence on fossil-based fuels.

“Pratt & Whitney has been active in SAF testing and certification for almost two decades. We will strategically continue to support 100 percent SAF flight tests for key customers that expand SAF uptake, including partnering with Embraer to test the E-Jets E2 aircraft on 100% SAF as part of their 2050 net zero emissions target,” said Graham Webb, Chief Sustainability Officer at Pratt & Whitney. “Through our constant pursuit of more efficient aircraft propulsion technologies, we are determined to support our customers in achieving their goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, and will ensure that our engines will be ready for operation with 100 percent SAF.”

“We are committed to continually enhancing the efficiency and performance of our products, and by further extending their compatibility with SAF, we will enable our customers to operate as sustainably as possible,” said Arjan Meijer, President and CEO, Embraer Commercial Aviation. “Embraer has a recognised track record of innovation in sustainable fuels, which includes the industry’s first certified ethanol-powered aircraft in 2004, and collaboration is an essential pre-requisite for our industry to achieve our environmental goals. We are delighted to partner with Pratt & Whitney towards this critical task of enabling aircraft operation with 100 percent SAF.”

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