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World’s First In-Flight Study Using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel Shows Big Emission Reductions

Airbus, Rolls-Royce, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and SAF producer Neste collaborated.

A350 100 Saf Emissions Test Flight With Dlr Falcon 20e Ai Ac 1413 50446 010 0
Airbus

Results from the world's first in-flight study of the impact of using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on both engines of a commercial aircraft show a reduction in soot particles and formation of contrail ice crystals compared to using conventional Jet A-1 fuel. 

The ECLIF3 study, in which Airbus, Rolls-Royce, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and SAF producer Neste collaborated, was the first to measure the impact of 100% SAF use to emissions from both engines of an Airbus A350 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines and followed by a DLR chase plane.

Compared to a reference Jet A-1 fuel, the number of contrail ice crystals per mass of unblended SAF consumed was reduced by 56%, which could significantly reduce the climate-warming effect of contrails.

Global climate model simulations conducted by DLR were used to estimate the change in the energy balance in Earth’s atmosphere - also known as radiative forcing - by contrails. The impact of contrails was estimated to be reduced by at least 26 percent with 100% SAF use compared to contrails resulting from the Jet A-1 reference fuel used in ECLIF3. These results show that using SAF in flight could significantly reduce the climate impact of aviation in the short term by reducing non-CO2 effects such as contrails, in addition to reducing CO2 emissions over the lifecycle of SAF.

“The results from the ECLIF3 flight experiments show how the use of 100 percent SAF can help us to significantly reduce the climate-warming effect of contrails, in addition to lowering the carbon footprint of flying – a clear sign of the effectiveness of SAF towards climate-compatible aviation,” said Markus Fischer, DLR Divisional Board Member for Aeronautics.

“SAF is widely recognized as a crucial solution to mitigating the climate impact of the aviation sector, both in the short term as well as the longer term. The results from the ECLIF3 study confirm a significantly lower climate impact when using 100% SAF due to the lack of aromatics in Neste’s SAF used, and provide additional scientific data to support the use of SAF at higher concentrations than currently approved 50%,” said Alexander Kueper, Vice President Renewable Aviation Business at Neste.

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