A Boeing 747 flies with sustainable fuel

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Technical support was provided by Boeing and fuel by World Energy. Transport is one the drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, and it is no coincidence that this is an area where a lot of effort is being put into finding greener and more sustainable alternatives to existing solutions.

Apart from land transport, one of the biggest polluters is air travel, where cheap low-cost flights may not be a burden on tourists’ wallets but they are on the planet, but it seems that this is not an area where a breakthrough is long in coming. Rolls-Royce recently flew its Boeing747 on 100 percent sustainable kerosene in a test flight.

There are two schools of thought on the banishment of fossil fuels from transport: electric solutions are currently the most common among four-wheelers, but there are also efforts to green the fuel itself rather than an entirely new powertrain. Next year at Le Mans, a French company will debut fuel made from a by-product of the wine industry and Formula 1 is looking to develop its own sustainable fuel, while Prince Charles’ favourite Aston Martin eats wine and cheese instead of petrol. This is also the trend in aviation – an electric plane that needs to be recharged after a few hundred kilometres would be interesting – and it seems to be working.

Rolls-Royce recently flew a Boeing jumbo jet using 100 per cent sustainable Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The 747 in question, the Trent 1000, was fitted with a turbofan jet engine that ran exclusively on SAF fuel, while the other three RB211 engines were fuelled with conventional kerosene, according to Rolls-Royce.

Technical support was provided by Boeing, while fuel was supplied by world energy. The aircraft departed from Tucson airport in Arizona, flew over New Mexico and Texas, and returned four hours later to the same location. According to Rolls-Royce, no technical problems were encountered during the test flight, proving that SAF is indeed a viable substitute for current jet fuels for commercial purposes.

SAF is made from waste products such as frying oil and animal fat used in restaurants. Rather than ending up in the bin and landfill, these waste materials are used to produce sustainable aviation fuel with 80 per cent lower carbon dioxide emissions. The biofuel also emits 90 percent less particulate matter and contains no sulphur oxide.

At present, aircraft can only operate on up to 50 per cent SAF, which is blended with conventional fuel, but Rolls-Royce says it remains in favour of allowing pure SAF to be used. With this in mind, the company announced last week that all of its Trend engines will be 100 per cent SAF compatible by 2023.

World Energy is the world’s first (and only US) SAF manufacturer, and is currently working to produce enough fuel for commercial sales. The importance of the problem and the benefits of alternative fuel have been recognised by the President of the United States himself, who has announced a new programme to produce 3 billion gallons of fuel by 2030. The initiative is part of a broad aviation action plan to tackle climate change, which will be unveiled in the coming months.

Source: Rolls-Royce

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