(19 Mar 2021)
A team of aerospace specialists has launched an in-flight emissions study using 100% sustainable
aviation fuel (SAF) on a wide-body commercial passenger aircraft.

Airbus, German research centre DLR, Rolls-Royce
and SAF producer Neste, have teamed up for the
‘Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels’ (ECLIF3)
project looking into the effects of 100% SAF on aircraft emissions
and performance.

“SAF is a vital part of Airbus’ ambition to
decarbonise the aviation industry and we are working closely with
a number of partners to ensure a sustainable future for air
travel,” said Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager,
Airbus. “Aircraft can currently only operate using a maximum 50%
blend of SAF and fossil kerosene; this exciting collaboration will
not only provide insight into how gas-turbine engines function
using 100% SAF with a view to certification, but identify the
potential emissions reductions and environmental benefits of using
such fuels in flight on a commercial aircraft too.”

Airbus, German research centre DLR, Rolls-Royce and SAF producer Neste, have teamed up for the ‘Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels’ (ECLIF3) project looking into the effects of 100% SAF on aircraft emissions and performance. Click to enlarge.

Findings from the study – to be carried out on the
ground and in the air using an Airbus A350-900 aircraft powered by
Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines – 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.

Fuel-clearance engine tests, including a first
flight to check operational compatibility of using 100% SAF with
the aircraft’s systems, started at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse,
France, this week. These will be followed by the
flight-emissions tests due to start in April and resuming in the
Autumn, using DLR’s Falcon 20-E ‘chase plane’ to carry out
measurements to investigate the emissions impact of using SAF. Further ground tests measuring particulate-matter
emissions are set to indicate the environmental impact of SAF-use
on airport operations.

Both the flight and the ground tests will compare
emissions from the use of 100% SAF produced with HEFA (hydroprocessed
esters and fatty acids) technology against those from fossil
kerosene and low-sulphur fossil kerosene. The SAF will be provided by Neste.

Jonathan Wood, Neste’s Vice President Europe,
Renewable Aviation, added: “We’re delighted to contribute to this
project to measure the extensive benefits of SAF compared with
fossil jet fuel and provide the data to support the use of SAF at
higher concentrations than 50%. Independently verified analysis
has shown 100% Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel delivering up to
80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil jet
fuel use when all life-cycle emissions are taken into account;
this study will clarify the additional benefits from the use of
SAF.”

Additional
measurement and analysis for the characterisation of the
particulate-matter emissions during the ground testing will be
delivered by the UK’s University of Manchester and the National
Research Council of Canada.

Dr Patrick Le Clercq, ECLIF Project Manager at
DLR, said, “By investigating 100% SAF, we are taking our research
on fuel design and aviation climate impact to a new level. In
previous research campaigns, we were already able to demonstrate
the soot-reduction potential of between 30 and 50% blends of
alternative fuels, and we hope this new campaign will show that
this potential is now even greater. DLR has already conducted extensive research on
analytics and modelling as well as performing ground and flight
tests using alternative fuels with the Airbus A320 ATRA research
aircraft in 2015 and in 2018 together with NASA.”

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