As the global aviation industry seeks to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, original equipment manufacturer Boeing is exploring what it will take to transition airlines’ current fleet to 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
SAF is a biofuel with a lower carbon footprint than conventional jet fuel, and is approved, at present, for use in all aircraft in blends of 50% with jet fuel.
While Boeing has committed that all aircraft from 2030 will be capable and certified to fly on 100% SAF, it is exploring ways to fly the existing fleet on SAF. “Imagine that if there is something required for the older aircraft to accept a 100% SAF it will have the same process where you are getting an upgrade to the airplane or fuel system if required,” Ryan Faucett, director, environmental strategy, Boeing Co., said.
The aircraft manufacturer is assessing technical solutions – along the lines of, say, what it does to improve airframes or engines for more efficiency – to convert an aircraft’s ability to run on 100% SAF, via a component fix. If such a solution is approved by regulators all airlines can upgrade their fleet either during maintenance or send the aircraft to an authorized repair facility of Boeing.
The firm is also considering solutions where fuel properties in a high-blend green fuel can compensate for the blend limit in an aircraft. According to Faucett, regulatory authorities may also look at the fuel properties and improve upon it to allow a fuel for 100% SAF certification without having to modify anything in the aircraft.
However, SAF is still a new concept among Indian airlines. So far, there have been a handful of demonstration flights on blended fuel for lower carbon emissions. In 2018, SpiceJet operated the first such flight which operated on a blend of 75% aviation turbine fuel and 25% biojet fuel made from jatropha plant.
India is working on making it compulsory for airlines to blend sustainable fuels with fossil-based aviation fuel.
Currently, there are three promising pathways in India for producing sustainable aviation fuel, Faucett said. These include fuel based on cooking oil, feedstock and power-to-liquid using green hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
A June 2021 report by the World Economic Forum said India is expected to become the third largest aviation fuel user in the world by 2050 from eighth in 2019. India currently has more than 700 commercial airplanes.Tags: Aircraft, Blends, Boeing, SAF