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UAE’s Emirates completes engine ground testing with 100% sustainable aviation fuel

Jan 31,2023

Dubai-based Emirates Airline has successfully completed the ground engine testing for one of its GE90 engines on a Boeing 777-300ER using 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which is said to reduce carbon emissions over the fuels life cycle by up to 80 per cent.

The aim of the test was to check the capability of the GE90 engine to run on the specially blended SAF without affecting its performance, requiring no modifications to the aircraft systems, or special maintenance procedures on the Boeing 777-300ER or GE90 engine to operate.

The ground test results will now pave the way for the airlines first experimental test flight using 100 per cent SAF in one engine, which is due for take-off this week.

Testing process

The testing activities involved running one engine on 100 per cent SAF and the other on conventional jet fuel to better analyse the fuel system´s behaviour and performance under each fuel type, compare specific outputs of each engine and ensure seamless operation of the aircrafts engine and airframe fuel systems during the planned test flight.

During the ground testing held at the Emirates Engineering Centre in Dubai, the aircraft first went through its standard pre-inspection activities. After that, the stationary operating testing began by first running the Honeywell 331-500 auxiliary power unit (APU) on 100 per cent SAF.

The APU was then put under full load with SAF to start the engines. The left engine was exercised through its full power range, utilising the same settings that will be used for the experimental flight. This included idle, take-offand climb settingsat full flight profile durations, running at maximum speed and intensity. Engines were then run at cruisesettings for 15 minutes. After the simulation ended, the engines were cooled down.

Fuels were isolated in separate fuel tanks to maintain the segregation of test fuels. Upon completion of the ground test, engine data was downloaded for review, comparison, and analysis.

Supporting sustainability

Emirates has been working with its partners GE Aerospace, Boeing, Honeywell, Neste and Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corp throughout 2022 on SAF fuel blend testing. The partners have developed a blend with the same qualities and performance characteristics of conventional jet fuel and have collaborated on the technical analysis and operational requirements surrounding ground testing and experimental flight activities.

The results of this initiative will provide additional data and research around synthetic fuel blend components and biofuels, supporting standardisation and future approval of 100 per cent drop-in SAF.

Following the successful trial on one engine, the airline will continue to develop these initiatives with the engine airframe manufacturers as well as SAF providers with the goal of certifying these blends for commercial use. Currently, SAF is approved for use in blends of up to 50 per cent with conventional jet fuel.

The airline has been a supporter of industry and government efforts to encourage the development of the SAF industry, and regularly participates in initiatives to contribute to SAF deployment. Its first flight powered by SAF blended with jet fuel was in 2017, operating from Chicago OHare airport on a Boeing 777. It received its first A380 powered by SAF in December 2020, and uplifted 32 tonnes of SAF for its flights from Stockholm earlier that year, with the support of Swedavias Biofuel Incentive Programme. Flights from Oslo have also begun operating on SAF.

At the Dubai Airshow 2021, Emirates, GE Aerospace and Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a programme for conducting a test flight using 100 per cent SAF on an Emirates 777-300ER powered by GE90 engines.

The “7th Annual Commercial Aero Engine Shanghai International Forum” (CAESH 2023) will be held in the city of Taicang on April 20th to 211st, 2023, focus on scientific and technological innovation-driven, integration of industry in-depth and with a number of domestic and foreign aero engines and aircraft host development units to focus on the “aviation industry policies and market trends”, “application of new renewable energy and hydrogen fuel”, “advanced aero engine materials and processing technology”, “global short-term supply chain coordination” and other hot topics, to build a high platform for aero engine technology exchanges, academic discussions and business cooperation.

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