Ten different engine models made by GE Aerospace and its joint ventures have been tested with 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) since 2016 through a mix of component-, engine-, and aircraft-level tests.
GE Aerospace reached a new milestone for a more sustainable future of flight with the completion of testing on its 10th engine model using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) since 2016, confirming the company and its joint ventures have one of the most expansive programs for testing the alternative fuel in the industry.
For example, in 2018, GE90 engines powered the first commercial airliner flight with 100% SAF in both engines on the Boeing ecoDemonstrator, a 777 freighter in partnership with FedEx Express. Then in 2021, LEAP-1B engines* powered the first passenger experimental flight with 100% SAF in one of the two engines on a United Airlines Boeing 737-8. This year, LEAP-1B engines powered test flights on 100% SAF in both engines of the Boeing ecoDemonstrator Explorer, a 737-10 destined for United Airlines, as part of emissions testing with NASA. Most recently, in November, Emirates became the first airline to operate an Airbus A380 using 100% SAF in one of the four GP7200 engines**.
Additional engines tested at the component-, engine-, or aircraft-level using 100% SAF include F414, GE9X, LEAP-1A*, Passport, GEnx, HF120***, and CFM56* engines. The wide range of tests represents a mix of propulsion systems used for domestic and international commercial air travel, military aviation, and business and general aviation. These tests also evaluated a wide scope of factors, such as engine performance and the impact of 100% SAF on contrails and emissions.
GE Aerospace and its joint ventures power three out of every four commercial flights globally.
“These tests demonstrate that we are leading and prepared to support our customers to operate on Sustainable Aviation Fuel. We’re proud of doing the hard work to better understand the impact of different emissions on the environment and using science to guide the technology we are developing to invent the future of flight,” said Mohamed Ali, vice president of engineering for GE Aerospace.
To help qualify new 100% SAFs, GE Aerospace is going from engine system testing to engine component and sub-component level evaluations. This encompasses evaluating components exposed to and impacted by fuels, from the engine fuel system to the combustor where fuel is burned. Various SAF types produced from different pathways are being tested to assess whether there is any impact on engine operability, efficiency, durability, and emissions.
Industry net zero target
GE Aerospace’s SAF testing efforts support the aviation industry’s long-term goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
In an interim step, governments gathered in November at the third ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3), setting a goal for aviation fuel in 2030 to be 5% less carbon intensive than conventional jet fuel used today. This follows an earlier statement by seven chief technology officers of major aviation manufacturers including GE Aerospace calling for supportive government policies that accelerate the availability and adoption of qualified SAF.
Meeting the long-term net-zero goal also requires the industry to deploy revolutionary technologies for increased engine fuel efficiency.
To address this challenge, GE Aerospace has multiple demonstrators underway, including the CFM RISE* (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) program in partnership with Safran Aircraft Engines and the Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration project with NASA. The CFM RISE program targets more than 20 percent better fuel efficiency with 20 percent lower CO2 emissions compared to the most efficient engines in service today. New open fan engine architecture and hybrid electric systems in development are being designed for compatibility with 100% SAF.
Additionally, GE Aerospace is an inaugural investor in the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund to help increase the supply of SAF.
All GE Aerospace and partner engines can operate on approved SAF blends today, which can be made from plant-based material, fats, oils and greases, alcohols, waste streams, captured CO2, and other alternative feedstocks. SAF blends have the same chemical composition as the jet fuel most commonly used today. The key difference is that instead of being made from fossil-based sources, SAF is made from partially or completely renewable sources. By using alternative feedstocks instead of fossil fuels, CO2 emissions can be reduced over the fuel’s life cycle.
Currently, SAF approved for use is a synthetic component blended with petroleum-based Jet A or Jet A-1 fuel up to 50%. An international task force led by one of GE Aerospace’s experts is developing standardized industry specifications supporting adoption of 100% drop-in SAF, which does not require blending with conventional jet fuel. 100% SAF is not yet qualified by ASTM International, an organization that develops technical standards. Engine testing and demonstrations provide data to support development of 100% SAF standards.
GE Aerospace has been actively involved in assessing and qualifying SAF since 2006 and works closely with producers, regulators, and operators to help ensure that SAF can be widely adopted for use in aviation.
Learn more about how GE Aerospace is helping shape the future of more sustainable flight here.
*CFM56 and LEAP engines are a product of CFM International, a 50-50 joint company between GE Aerospace and Safran Aircraft Engines. RISE is a registered trademark of CFM.
**GP7200 engines are a product of Engine Alliance, a 50-50 joint company between GE Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney.
***HF120 engines are a product of GE Honda Aero Engines LLC, a 50/50 joint company between GE Aerospace and Honda Aero, Inc.