Emirates Eyes 100% Sustainable Fuel Test Flights On The Boeing 777

During the Dubai Air Show, Emirates and GE Aviation have signed an MoU to operate a test flight operated by one of the airline’s Boeing 777-300ERs powered by 100% SAF by the end of next year. The demonstration flight is in line with both companies’ efforts to lower CO2 emissions and support the industry in scaling up the demand for and use of sustainable aviation fuels.

Emirates 777
Emirates and GE Aviation will fly a Boeing 777 on 100% SAF by the end of 2022. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Important step towards certification

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is currently certified for a maximum blend limit with conventional jet fuel of 50%. However, test flights are now being conducted with 100% SAF and zero fossil-based fuel. In October, Rolls-Royce flew a Trent 1000 engine on 100% sustainable fuels. Just over a week later, Airbus flew an A319neo on nothing but SAF.

Boeing has promised to deliver aircraft capable of and certified for 100% SAF operations by 2030. Meanwhile, Emirates and GE Aviation intend to test a Boeing aircraft for zero-petroleum flight much sooner than that. The two parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a program that will see an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER, powered by GE90 engines, conduct a test flight powered by 100% SAF by the end of 2022.

“Our agreement with GE Aviation will support progress on the industry’s collective commitment to net-zero emissions, and we look forward to continuing this close collaboration. Our partnership with GE Aviation to prepare for the test flight will be an important step towards securing certification of flights that are powered by 100% SAF,” Adel Al Redha, Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

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The two parties signed an MoU for the sustainable fuel initiative during the Dubai Air Show. Photo: Emirates

Emirates’ SAF journey

Emirates operated its first flight using SAF in 2017 from Chicago O’Hare. Meanwhile, it took delivery of its first Airbus A380 powered by SAF in December last year. What’s more, it uplifted 32 tonnes of SAF for its flights from Stockholm earlier in 2020, with the support of Swedavia’s Biofuel Incentive Programme. Due to the Norwegian SAF blending mandate, flights from Oslo have also been operating on biofuel-blends.

Biofuels and synthetics

All GE Aviation engines can operate on approved SAF. Feedstocks generally include plant oils, algae, waste, fats, and alcohol. These produce up to 80% less CO2 than conventional jet fuel during their lifecycle.

Meanwhile, synthetic fuels derived from a process of electrolysis are also making their way into the system. If these are derived from CO2 captured from the atmosphere along with green hydrogen, they are almost entirely climate neutral.

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All of GE’s engines can operate on Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Photo: Emirates

GE committed to decarbonization

GE will provide Emirates with customer support and the technical reviews to make sure the engines will meet performance specifications. The company will also offer pre- and post-flight directions.

“GE Aviation is committed to pursuing efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from commercial aviation, including developing technologies for the fleet in service and for the future of flight. This collaboration with Emirates is key to our efforts to standardize 100% SAF globally, which could provide a significant opportunity to expand the impact of SAF on aviation’s carbon reduction efforts,” said John Slattery, President and CEO of GE Aviation.

When do you think we will see passenger services powered by 100% SAF? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.