Rolls-Royce To Test 100 Percent SAF in UltraFan Demonstrator

 - November 12, 2020, 7:11 AM
A Rolls-Royce engineer inspects the Trent engine the company plans to use for pure SAF tests. (Photo: Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce plans to use 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to power a Trent turbofan during ground tests as part of its UltraFan next-generation engine demonstrator program, the company revealed Thursday. The tests, if successful, would confirm that unblended SAF makes a significant contribution to improving the environmental performance of gas turbine engines, said the company.

Low-carbon fuel specialist World Energy of Paramount, California, produced the SAF Rolls-Royce plans to use for the tests. Sourced by Shell Aviation and delivered by SkyNRG, the unblended fuel can reduce CO2 lifecycle emissions by more than 75 percent compared with conventional jet fuel, said Rolls-Royce.

The tests aim to demonstrate that Rolls-Royce’s current engines can operate with 100 percent SAF as a full “drop-in” option, laying the groundwork for moving such fuels towards certification. Today’s certification allows for use of blends of up to 50 percent.

The engine maker said the ground tests will start in the “coming weeks” in Derby, UK, where the Trent engine involved will also incorporate the UltraFan program’s ALECSys (advanced low emissions combustion system) lean-burn technology.

“Aviation is a tremendous force for good, keeping the world connected, but we have to do that sustainably,” said Rolls-Royce chief technology officer Paul Stein. “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 2050we can make a huge contribution for our planet.”