GE completes testing sustainable aviation fuel on 10th aircraft engine model

(NEW YORK) — GE Aerospace is taking another step towards its commitment to sustainable flights, completing testing with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on its 10th aircraft engine model.

The company announced Monday its finished testing with 100% SAF on 10 aircraft engine models. Currently, GE Aerospace engines power three out of four commercial flights worldwide, the company said.

Among the tests, which have been taking place since 2016, were test flights operated with SAF. Most recently, Emirates Airlines operated a flight on an Airbus A380 powered by four engines made by a GE subsidiary – one of them fueled by SAF.

Current regulations allow commercial flights to operate with a blend of SAF and jet fuel, however airlines, regulators and manufacturers are working towards operating flights with 100% recycled fuel. GE’s tests were conducted with Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) fuel thats made of vegetable oils, waste oils, or fats.

“Right now [SAF] is more expensive and it’s hard to find, but that’s something that’s going to change over time,” Chris Lorence, chief engineer and general manager at GE Aerospace, told ABC News. “As more capacity comes online, our hope is that it’s going to be comparable or better than jet fuel today.”

According to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation sector accounts for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions – with aviation accounting for 8%. Lorence said as the aviation industry continues to grow, GE wants to make sure it’s done in an “environmentally-friendly way” with “more efficient products.”

“Plants, essentially through their lifecycle, recycle carbon in the atmosphere. They suck it out as they grow and they release it when they die. And the beautiful thing about SAF is we’re sort of intercepting that process,” Lorence said. “As the plants remove carbon from the atmosphere, we catch it before it gets returned and released to the environment, converted into fuel and then when the airplanes actually fly, then it gets released back, so that there’s no net carbon that’s created as part of the process.”

With the 10th test complete, data will be sent to ASTM International – the governing body that sets technical standards for different materials, products and systems – including SAF.

The data will also be used by GE to see how SAF impacts engines over time.

“Most of the testing we see coming up now, we’re now going to be component testing and what we call endurance testing where we run, we simulate multiple cycles of aircraft flight to see how it performs over time in expected service,” Lorence said. “So that we can see not just what happens for a single flight, but what happens over a much longer exposure and duration of testing to make sure that there’s no reliability or durability concerns.”

Major U.S. airlines like American, Delta, Southwest and United have committed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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