World's First 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel Study Reveals Significant Emissions Reductions
In-Flight Tests on Airbus A350 Show Major Decrease in Soot and Contrail Ice Crystals
June 6, 2024
Airbus Aircraft flying over the south of Fance
Image source: Airbus 2021 - photo by S. Ramadier
Summary: Initial results from the ECLIF3 study, a groundbreaking research initiative involving Airbus, Rolls-Royce, DLR, and Neste, indicate substantial reductions in non-CO2 emissions from using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The study demonstrates a significant decrease in soot particles and contrail ice crystals, suggesting considerable climate benefits.

Berlin – Results from the world’s first in-flight study using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on both engines of a commercial aircraft have shown promising reductions in soot particles and the formation of contrail ice crystals compared to conventional Jet A-1 fuel. This historic study, part of the ECLIF3 programme, involved Airbus, Rolls-Royce, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and SAF producer Neste.

The research, conducted with an Airbus A350 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines and monitored by a DLR Falcon chase plane, marks a significant step forward in understanding the environmental benefits of SAF. Compared to Jet A-1 fuel, the use of 100% SAF reduced the number of contrail ice crystals per mass of fuel consumed by 56%, which could greatly diminish the climate-warming effects of contrails.

Initial findings from the ECLIF3 study reveal significant reductions in soot particles and contrail ice crystals from using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a commercial jet. This groundbreaking research by Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and partners points to substantial climate benefits from SAF.

Global climate model simulations conducted by DLR estimate that the climate impact of contrails could be reduced by at least 26% when using 100% SAF compared to Jet A-1. These findings highlight the potential for SAF to mitigate aviation’s environmental footprint by reducing non-CO2 effects, in addition to lowering CO2 emissions over the fuel’s lifecycle.

Markus Fischer, DLR Divisional Board Member for Aeronautics, commented on the results: “The ECLIF3 flight experiments show how the use of 100% SAF can significantly reduce the climate-warming effect of contrails, alongside lowering the carbon footprint of flying. This is a clear indication of SAF’s effectiveness in achieving climate-compatible aviation.”

Mark Bentall, Head of Research & Technology Programme at Airbus, added: “We already knew that sustainable aviation fuels could reduce the carbon footprint of aviation. Thanks to the ECLIF studies, we now know that SAF can also reduce soot emissions and ice particulate formation seen as contrails. This is a very encouraging result, based on science, which shows just how crucial sustainable aviation fuels are for transforming air transport.”

Alexander Kueper, Vice President of the Renewable Aviation Business at Neste, noted: “SAF is widely recognized as a crucial solution to mitigating the climate impact of aviation. 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. This provides additional scientific data to support the use of SAF at higher concentrations than the currently approved 50%.”

Alan Newby, Director of Research & Technology at Rolls-Royce, emphasized the importance of these findings: “Using SAF at high blend ratios will form a key part of aviation’s journey to net zero CO2. These tests show that our Trent XWB-84 engine can run on 100% SAF, and the results demonstrate the additional value of SAF in reducing non-CO2 climate effects.”

The ECLIF3 programme, which includes contributions from the National Research Council of Canada and The University of Manchester, will publish its detailed findings in the Copernicus journal Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics (ACP). This peer-reviewed research provides the first in-situ evidence of the climate mitigation potential of using 100% SAF on commercial aircraft.

Source: Airbus
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