Rolls-Royce completes 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel test programme

Rolls-Royce has announced the completion of compatibility tests using 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which is said to be compatible with the company’s in-production civil aero engines.


According to Rolls-Royce, this fulfils a commitment made in 2021 to demonstrate there are no engine technology barriers to using 100 per cent SAF.

A ground test on a BR710 engine at the company’s facility in Canada completed the test regime. Other engines tested as part of the programme included the Trent 700 – 1000 range, Trent XWB-84 and 97, Trent 7000, BR725, Pearl 700, Pearl 15 and Pearl 10X.

Testing involved a variety of ground and flight tests to replicate in-service conditions, which all confirmed the use of 100 per cent SAF does not affect engine performance.

In a statement, Simon Burr, group director of Engineering, Technology and Safety, Rolls-Royce plc, said: “This is an important milestone, not just for Rolls-Royce, but also for the wider civil aerospace industry.

“We hope the success of these tests provides a level of technical validation that supports those who seek to invest in the production of 100 per cent SAF going forward.”

SAF testing is set to continue later this month when Trent 1000 engines will power a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Flight 100, the world’s first transatlantic 100 per cent SAF flight. The return flight, on regular jet fuel, will prove the engine can run on either fuel type without engineering changes.

The Virgin Atlantic led consortium, sponsored by the Department for Transport, includes Boeing, Sheffield University, Imperial College London and Rocky Mountain Institute.

Rolls-Royce said that SAF has great potential to support aviation’s energy transition journey, as a ‘drop-in’ fuel that can be used as an alternative to conventional fuel.

When the lifecycle of SAF is taken into consideration, the International Air Transport Association estimated the net CO2 lifecycle emissions of unblended SAFs are up to 80 per cent lower than conventional fuel.

Mark Harper, the UK transport secretary, said: “The world’s journey to decarbonising flight is powered by British innovation and backed by the UK government, meaning people can continue to travel how they want, in a way that’s fit for the future.

“Rolls Royce and the UK are [demonstrated] global leaders in decarbonising transport, taking us one step closer to Jet Zero.”

Rolls-Royce has estimated that to reach Net Zero flying by 2050 a combination of latest-generation gas turbines operating on 100 per cent SAF could contribute around 80 per cent of the total solution.

The international standards body for jet fuel, ASTM International, currently permits a maximum of 50 per cent SAF to be blended with conventional jet fuel.

All Rolls-Royce in-production civil aero engines are said to already operate on a blend of 50 per cent SAF, and the successful 100 per cent SAF tests will provide further support for a pathway to commercial flights on 100 per cent SAF.