Monday, July 22, 2024

GE to study the compatibility of 100% SAF with jet engines

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry took another step forward with the recent announcement of a unique new coalition that brings together leading aerospace companies.

The International Aerospace Environmental Group (IAEG) has formed a new Work Group to study the impact of 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on airplane and engine systems and evaluate technical issues.

In support of aviation’s 2050 goal of achieving net-zero CO2 emissions, GE Aerospace is collaborating with Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, Safran, and other industry leaders to collectively test 100% SAF. The findings from this collaboration will be shared with ASTM International to contribute to the development of new specifications for the use of 100% SAF.

This initiative, known as Work Group 13, will also involve discussions with key infrastructure stakeholders such as fuel producers, airports, and airlines to prepare for a comprehensive transition to alternative fuel.

Ryan Faucett, an IAEG board member and vice president of environmental sustainability at Boeing, says that in an effort “to prepare the broader aviation ecosystem for 100% SAF capabilities,” Boeing will share findings from its own SAF compatibility and jet fluids research with Work Group 13. IAEG Chair Bruno Costes promised a similar approach from Airbus, where he serves as senior director of institutional relations and standardization: “Airbus will bring its knowledge and experience from years of 100% SAF demonstration flights, coupled with our technical expertise in developing new fuel standards.”

In the realm of GE Aerospace, Work Group 13 boasts a powerful ally. In the past year, the company has successfully tested its 10th airplane engine model since 2016 using 100% SAF, marking a significant milestone in the exploration of alternative fuels.

Tests involving 100% SAF at the component, engine, or aircraft level have encompassed F414, GE90, GE9X, LEAP-1A and -1B, Passport, GEnx, CFM56, GP7200, and HF120 engines. These tests have been conducted in collaboration with FedEx Express, United Airlines, Emirates, NASA, and various other partners, covering a wide range of propulsion systems for commercial air travel, military aviation, and business and general aviation. The evaluations have also considered engine performance and the impact of 100% SAF on contrails.

“It’s crucial to emphasize that our work on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a top priority, not just an ancillary project,” emphasizes Gurhan Andac, the head of engineering for aviation fuels and additives at GE Aerospace.

Leading GE Aerospace’s SAF initiatives for over 15 years, Andac stresses the timeliness of the IAEG consortium’s involvement. President Joe Biden’s announcement of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge in late 2021 underscores the urgency, aiming for the production of “at least 3 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and, by 2050, sufficient SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand, projected to be around 35 billion gallons per year.”

Andac asserts that achieving such a goal will demand a diverse range of partners, from researchers to equipment manufacturers to feedstock and fuel producers, and anticipates that Work Group 13’s momentum could be instrumental in driving progress.

SAF, or Sustainable Aviation Fuel, is a groundbreaking alternative to traditional jet fuels. It is derived from renewable sources such as plant oils, algae, greases, and waste streams, making it a more sustainable option for the aviation industry.

By reducing emissions over the fuel’s lifecycle, SAF offers a significant environmental advantage without compromising on performance. When the fuel is burned during flight, emissions are equivalent to those of conventional jet fuel, making SAF an effective and eco-friendly choice for the future of air travel.

The aviation industry is poised to accommodate 4.7 billion passengers this year, as projected by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The demand for solutions becomes increasingly urgent, with U.S. jet fuel consumption expected to surge by approximately 32% by 2050.

Despite the daunting challenge, Andac is confident that a concerted, unified effort can lead to success. “I think in about 10 to 15 years,” he says, “it will really accelerate when we have the fuel technologies in place, the policies in place, and the airframe and engine technology in place regarding SAF use.”