Rolls-Royce ramps up 100% SAF testing

Posted on 1 December, 2020 by Advance 

Rolls-Royce is conducting new ground tests on an engine demonstrator using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for the first time, aiming to confirm that unblended SAF makes a significant contribution to improving the environmental performance of gas turbine engines.


A Trent 1000 engine incorporating ALECSys (Advanced Low Emissions Combustion System) lean-burn technology being prepared for 100% SAF testing on 20th November 2020.
Copyright Rolls-Royce

The tests, in Derby, UK, have just started on a Trent 1000 engine which also incorporates ALECSys (Advanced Low Emissions Combustion System) lean-burn technology. At present SAF is only certified for blends of up to 50% – so a change to allow 100% SAF would be groundbreaking in terms of sustainability.

The future of medium-to-long-haul flight still needs the gas turbine but it also requires a new level of environmental performance. Sustainable Aviation Fuel offers a solution and these Rolls-Royce tests will contribute to laying the groundwork for this transition to cleaner skies. While aviation continues to research new power solutions such as electrification and hydrogen it is clear that, for medum-to-long-distance travel, the gas turbine is the only viable solution for the foreseeable future. The net CO2 lifecycle emissions of unblended SAF in this test are at least 75% less than conventional jet fuel and as methods of production advance there is the possibility of further reductions in years to come.

Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce Chief Technology Officer, said: “Aviation is a tremendous force for good, keeping the world connected, but we have to do that sustainably. If SAF production can be scaled up – and aviation needs 500 million tonnes a year by 2050 – we can make a huge contribution for our planet.

“We know that is a huge undertaking and will require teamwork right across a number of stakeholders, including aviation, the fuel industry and government bodies. These tests are a contribution to the SAF debate, aiming to demonstrate that our current engines can operate with 100% SAF as a full ‘drop-in’ option, laying the groundwork for moving such fuels towards certification.”

The SAF being used in the tests was produced by low-carbon fuel specialist World Energy in Paramount, California, sourced by Shell Aviation and delivered by SkyNRG. Fuel deliveries have taken place throughout November and the first engine run took place on 24th November.

The tests will run until the New Year and aim to confirm full engine operability with the fuel and will also monitor performance and emissions.