Rolls-Royce successfully completes 100% SAF test program
Rolls-Royce announced Nov. 13 that it has successfully completed compatibility testing of 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on all its in-production civil-aero engine types.
This fulfills a commitment made in 2021 to demonstrate there are no engine-technology barriers to the use of 100 percent SAF.
A ground test on a BR710 business-jet engine at the company’s facility in Canada completed the test regime.
Other engines tested as part of the program were: Trent 700, Trent 800, Trent 900, Trent 1000, Trent XWB-84, Trent XWB-97, Trent 7000, BR725, Pearl 700, Pearl 15 and Pearl 10X.
Testing has involved a variety of ground and flight tests to replicate in-service conditions.
All the tests confirmed the use of 100 percent SAF does not affect engine performance.
“Becoming the first jet-engine manufacturer to publicly confirm all our in-production engines for long-haul aircraft and business jets are compatible with 100 percent SAF is an important milestone for both Rolls-Royce and the wider aviation industry,” said CEO Tufan Erginbilgic. “It’s also further evidence of our commitment to becoming a net-zero company by 2050 and supporting our customers to do the same.”
Simon Burr, the group director of engineering, technology and safety for Rolls-Royce, added, “This is an important milestone, not just for Rolls-Royce, but also for the wider civil aerospace industry. We hope the success of these tests provides a level of technical validation that supports those who seek to invest in the production of 100 percent SAF going forward.”
U.K. Transport Secretary Mark Harper commented, “The world’s journey to decarbonizing flight is powered by British innovation and backed by the U.K. government, meaning people can continue to travel how they want, in a way that’s fit for the future. Today’s news demonstrates that Rolls-Royce and the U.K. are global leaders in decarbonizing transport, taking us one step closer to Jet Zero.”
In addition to proving in-production engine compatibility, Rolls-Royce has already ensured its new generation UltraFan engine demonstrator has the same capability.
Its first run, earlier this year, was on 100 percent SAF.
The Rolls-Royce SAF story continues later this month when Trent 1000 engines will power a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Flight 100, the world’s first transatlantic 100 percent SAF flight.
The Virgin Atlantic-led consortium, sponsored by the U.K. Department for Transport, includes Boeing, University of Sheffield, Imperial College London and Rocky Mountain Institute.
The return flight, on regular jet fuel, will prove the engine and aircraft can run on either fuel type without engineering changes.
SAF has great potential to support aviation’s energy transition journey as a drop-in fuel that can simply be used as an alternative to conventional fuel.
When the lifecycle of SAF is taken into consideration, the International Air Transport Association estimates the net CO2-lifecycle emissions of unblended SAF is up to 80 percent lower than conventional fuel.
Rolls-Royce estimates that to reach net-zero flying by 2050, a combination of highly efficient latest-generation gas turbines operating on 100 percent SAF is likely to contribute around 80 percent of the total solution.
The international standards body for jet fuel, ASTM International, currently permits up to a maximum of 50 percent SAF to be blended with 50 percent conventional jet fuel.
All Rolls-Royce in-production civil-aero engines are already certified to operate on a blend of 50 percent SAF.
The successful 100 percent SAF tests will provide further support for a pathway to commercial flights on 100 percent SAF.