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Tue, 19 October 2021

Making Long-Haul Aviation Compatible with Net Zero Goals

Under the UNs Race to Zero goals, the current breakthrough required for the decarbonisation of aviation is to achieve a minimum of 10% sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) use by 2030, with the proportion not reaching 100% earlier than 2050.

Three of the leading companies investing in the technology that could enable this to happen sooner than current targets are Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Shell.

By 2023 all Rolls-Royce Trent engines, used across a range of long-haul aircraft, will have been proven compatible with 100% SAF. That builds on the company's earlier commitment to test Trent models currently in production and means that within two years Rolls-Royce will have proven that net zero carbon operation is possible with about 40% of the worlds long-haul aircraft engines.

Rolls-Royce engine on a Thai Airways Airbus A350-900. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

All Airbus aircraft are currently certified to operate on up to a 50% blend of SAF mixed with kerosene and Airbus has the ambition to achieve certification of 100% unblended SAF by the end of this decade.

By 2025, Shell alone has committed to produce 2 million tonnes of SAF per year. That is more than 10 times the total amount of SAF produced globally today. By the end of the decade, at least 10% of Shells global aviation fuel sales are expected to be SAF. Shell is already building one of Europes biggest biofuels plants in the Netherlands, with production due to start in 2024.

Anna Mascolo, President Global Aviation, Shell, said, The aviation sector is moving towards net zero, but we need to accelerate. Shells commitment is clear: within four years, well produce 10 times as much SAF as is currently made by all producers across the world, with other industry players expected to step in to complement this ambition. With partners like Rolls-Royce and Airbus, Shell is shaping a future where we can still benefit from flying while emissions are driven down. We can strengthen the industrys momentum with a regulatory framework that supports our investment in technology and infrastructure, while helping us build customer demand.

New all-electric, hybrid-electric and hydrogen technologies will all have a role to play in reducing the aviation industrys use of fossil fuels over the medium to long-term. For long-haul aviation, the challenge of decarbonisation is particularly difficult and SAF represents a clear pathway to net zero flight over longer distances.

Aviation needs around 290 Mt of fuel a year and this is expected to grow as the sector continues to grow following the pandemic. Global SAF production will therefore have to increase significantly over the coming years to replace it. As a result, collaboration and a global enabling policy environment that matches the extent of the aviation industrys technological ambitions are required to scale SAF production and significantly increase the pace of decarbonisation within the sector.

Warren East, Chief Executive, Rolls-Royce, said, At Rolls-Royce, we believe in the positive, transformative potential of technology. We believe we have the technology enablers to make long-haul aviation compatible with net zero carbon. Flying generates between 2% and 3% of global emissions, but as easier-to-abate sectors decarbonise that proportion will increase, so shortening aviations journey to net zero with action in the opening phase of this Decisive Decade would be a huge win for the world. However, we will only create the focus and momentum required to achieve this if we ratchet our collective ambition beyond the current target of achieving 10% SAF usage by 2030. We need partners who share our vision for the use of SAFs as a solution for reducing emissions on long-haul flight, to help all of us successfully transition to a net zero carbon future.

See also: Rolls-Royce's All-Electric Spirit of Innovation Aircraft Takes Off for First Time.

See latest Travel Industry News, Video Interviews, Pictures, Podcasts and other news regarding: Shell, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, SAF.

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