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Rolls-Royce to test neat sustainable aviation fuel in next-gen turbines

As part of its ongoing decarbonisation strategy, aviation propulsion major Rolls-Royce Holdings plc (Rolls-Royce) has announced that it is to use 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for the first time in engine ground tests on next-generation engine technology. The tests will aim to confirm that unblended SAF makes a significant contribution to improving the environmental performance of gas turbine engines.

As part of its ongoing decarbonisation strategy, aviation propulsion major Rolls-Royce Holdings plc (Rolls-Royce) has announced that it is to use 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for the first time in engine ground tests on next-generation engine technology. The tests will aim to confirm that unblended SAF makes a significant contribution to improving the environmental performance of gas turbine engines. The Advanced Low Emissions Combustion System (ALECSys) lean-burn technology is housed within a Trent 1000 “donor” engine (photo courtesy Rolls-Royce).

The SAF to be used in the tests was produced by low-carbon fuel specialist World Energy in Paramount, California (CA), sourced by Shell Aviation, and delivered by SkyNRG. This unblended fuel has the potential to significantly reduce net carbon dioxide (CO2) lifecycle emissions by more than 75 percent compared to conventional jet fuel, with the possibility of further reductions in years to come.

World Energy exists to empower leaders to innovate by providing the world’s most advanced low carbon fuels. Rolls-Royce is putting their technological prowess to work to understand how to maximize their potential in engines and we are proud to support them, said Gene Gebolys, CEO and Founder of World Energy.

Test to confirm neat operations

These tests aim to demonstrate that current engines can operate with 100 percent SAF as a full “drop-in” option, laying the groundwork for moving such fuels towards certification. At present, SAF is certified for blends of up to 50 percent with conventional jet fuel and can be used on all current Rolls-Royce engines.

Starting in the coming weeks in Derby, UK, the ground tests will involve a Trent engine which also incorporates ALECSys (Advanced Low Emissions Combustion System) lean-burn technology. ALECSys is part of the UltraFan next-generation engine demonstrator programme, which offers a 25 percent fuel saving over the first generation of Trent engines.

Aviation is a tremendous force for good, keeping the world connected, but we have to do that sustainably. These tests aim to show that we can deliver real emissions reductions. If SAF production can be scaled up – and aviation needs 500 million tonnes a year by 2050 – we can make a huge contribution to our planet, said Paul Stein, CTO at Rolls-Royce.

In addition to supplying the SAF with SkyNRG, Shell Aviation is also providing Rolls-Royce with AeroShell lubricants for the ALECSys engine test programme.

For over 100 years, Rolls-Royce and Shell have worked together to drive aviation’s progress. This collaboration brings us one step closer to decarbonising Aviation. As well as the SAF, Shell Aviation will provide offsets using nature-based solutions to make the test net-zero emissions, reinforcing how multiple measures are essential if aviation is to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, said Anna Mascolo, President, Shell Aviation.

The ALECSys programme is supported by the European Union via Clean Sky and in the UK by the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK. The 100 percent SAF testing programme is additionally supported by ATI, iUK, and Gulf Aviation.

This programme is a great example of what can be achieved when companies from across the aviation value chain that share an ambition of reducing emissions work together. As a pioneer in SAF, SkyNRG encourages innovative tests like this run by Rolls-Royce, said Theye Veen, Managing Director, SkyNRG.

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