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New study into in-flight SAF use reveals early promise

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Initial findings from a study of the impact of 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on both engines of a commercial jet have provided promising early results, Neste has reported.
The Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels (ECLIF3) study involving Airbus, Rolls-Royce, German research centre DLR and Neste, marked the first time 100% SAF has been measured simultaneously on both engines of a commercial passenger aircraft – an Airbus A350 aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
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 towards the end of next year and in 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.
In April 2021, 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% SAF and no operational issues were experienced during these initial test flights.
“Sustainable aviation fuel is widely recognized as a crucial solution to mitigating the climate impact of the aviation sector, both in the short term as well as the longer term,” said Jonathan Wood, Neste’s Vice President Europe, Renewable Aviation.
“This project to measure the extensive benefits of SAF compared with fossil jet fuel will provide the data to support the use of SAF at higher concentrations than 50% and clarify the additional benefits from the use of SAF.”
Simon Burr, Rolls-Royce director of product development and technology, Civil Aerospace, said: “This research adds to tests we’ve already carried out on our engines both on the ground and in the air which have found no engineering obstacle to our engines running on 100% SAF. If we are to truly decarbonise long-haul air travel, then 100% SAF is a critical element and we are committed to supporting its certification for service.”