LONDON- In a groundbreaking achievement, Virgin Atlantic (VA) and Rolls-Royce have confirmed the successful ground test of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine, utilizing a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) blend.
Virgin Atlantic SAF Flight
The successful ground test on the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine paves the way for the historic transatlantic flight fueled entirely by SAF.
Virgin Atlantic has enlisted fuel suppliers Air bp and Virent to make this milestone possible. They will provide the required 60 tonnes of SAF.
The fuel will be a blend of Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) and synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK) SAF, with an 88% and 12% ratio.
Virgin Atlantic is at the forefront of sustainability efforts in the aviation industry and is dedicated to achieving Net Zero by 2050.
With its fuel-efficient fleet already operating across the Atlantic, this pioneering flight further solidifies the airline’s 15-year track record of leadership in SAF utilization.
The successful test highlights the potential for the industry to adopt 100% SAF in the current engine, airframe, and fuel infrastructure for long-haul flights. However, the aviation sector must continue its efforts to develop a UK SAF industry and meet the target of 10% SAF usage by 2030.
SAF’s Role in Decarbonization
Sustainable Aviation Fuel offers a remarkable reduction of more than 70% in CO2 life cycle emissions compared to traditional jet fuel, all while maintaining the performance standards of conventional fuel.
At present, SAF constitutes less than 0.1% of total jet fuel volumes, and commercial jet engines are only approved for a 50% SAF blend.
The forthcoming VA flight in November will demonstrate SAF’s potential as a 100% drop-in replacement for fossil fuel. Further showcasing its viability for immediate implementation.
Realizing the 100% SAF transatlantic flight requires extensive cross-industry collaboration and various project teams’ dedicated efforts in research, testing, and operations.
The Virgin Atlantic-led consortium, jointly funded by the Department for Transport, includes industry giants like Rolls-Royce, Boeing, the University of Sheffield, Imperial College London, and Rocky Mountain Institute.
While the successful bench engine test represents a major milestone, the project still requires further permissions and safety approvals before the November flight.
Transatlantic SAF Flight
Beyond the landmark transatlantic flight, Virgin Atlantic and the consortium plan to leverage the event to promote further SAF utilization.
They aim to address other environmental impacts of the aviation sector by focusing on CO2 reduction through operational efficiencies.
The project will also contribute to research and development regarding the non-CO2 effects of flying and provide a comprehensive life cycle analysis of the flight.
Any remaining CO2 emissions from the flight will be offset through innovative carbon removal methods, such as biochar projects.
Statements from Key Stakeholders
Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, Shai Weiss, expressed excitement about the historic transatlantic flight. He emphasized the need for government support to create a robust UK SAF industry to achieve its 2030 targets.
Rolls-Royce’s President of Civil Aerospace, Rob Watson, acknowledged the significance of this achievement for the aviation industry’s journey towards net-zero carbon emissions.
Aviation Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton praised the flight as a significant step towards the government’s Jet Zero Strategy and its contribution to the economy and job creation.
The involvement of fuel suppliers, Air BP and Virent, was also commended. Andreea Moyes, Global Head of Sustainability at Air bp, highlighted SAF as the most viable option to achieve the industry’s net-zero ambition.
At the same time, Dave Kettner, President and general Counsel at Virent, underlined the role of their BioForm® SAK in making renewable fuel a reality.
Boeing’s Vice President of Environmental Sustainability, Sheila Remes, expressed pride in providing technical support for the testing and looked forward to the flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s SAF transatlantic flight.
The upcoming Virgin Atlantic SAF flight represents a significant leap forward in the aviation industry’s pursuit of sustainable and carbon-neutral travel.
Through the collaboration of key stakeholders, pioneering technology, and dedication to environmental responsibility, the industry takes a momentous step towards a greener and more sustainable future in flight.
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