Testing alternatives

Rolls-Royce and British Airways have announced the start of a test programme to investigate the viability of alternative fuels for the aviation industry.


The companies will initiate a joint tender process, inviting suppliers to offer alternative fuel samples for testing on a Rolls-Royce RB211 engine from a British Airways Boeing 747. The tests will be carried out on an indoor engine test bed at the Rolls-Royce facility in Derby, UK.




Following the tender process, there will be a selection of up to four alternative fuels, which will undergo laboratory testing before being delivered to Rolls-Royce in the new year. Each company will be asked to supply up to 60,000 litres of their fuel.



This will be followed by intensive trials, during which the aero-engine will be powered by the alternative fuels and its performance compared to running on conventional kerosene. In each case, the engine will be operated through its full range of power settings.



Testing is expected to be complete by the end of March 2009, after which the results will be analysed and reported.



‘The key criteria for the selection of the alternative fuels will be their suitability, sustainability and industrial capability,’ said Ric Parker, director of research and technology at Rolls-Royce. ‘It is critical that the fuel can not only do the job required of it, but can also offer a CO2 benefit and be produced without a detrimental impact to food, land or water. There must also be clear evidence of the potential for mass production and global distribution of an alternative fuel to support the world’s aviation industry.’