Boeing will source two million gallons (7.5 million litres) of sustainable aviation fuel from Texas-based Epic Fuels in what the companies have described as “the largest announced SAF procurement by an airframer”. Throughout 2022, Boeing will use the SAF in its commercial operations in both Washington state and South Carolina to help fuel the test, ferry and customer flights of new aircraft, as well as operations by its giant Dreamlifter freighters that are used to transport major aircraft components and other large shipments, reports Tony Harrington. Use of the fuels will progress Boeing’s commitment that by 2030 it will offer commercial aircraft which are both able and certified to fly using 100% SAF, and also support broader initiatives by the aerospace industry to grow SAF use. In other OEM developments, European turboprop manufacturer ATR has test flown an ATR 72-600 aircraft with one of its two engines fuelled by 100% SAF, while regional jet maker Embraer is planning a similar trial in partnership with engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
The latest purchase agreement between long-term partners Boeing and Epic Fuels will include supplies developed from inedible agricultural waste, which will then be used to produce a blend of 30% SAF and 70% conventional jet fuel. Epic will also continue to provide customised blends graduating from 50 to 100% SAF for use in the Boeing ecoDemonstrator programme, in which new technologies are assessed on flights by testbed aircraft. Although the maximum SAF-fossil fuel blend approved by regulators is 50/50 for commercial flights, Boeing, alongside other airframe and engine manufacturers, is working to achieve universal approval for 100% SAF use to power everyday flights.
“SAF is a safe, proven, immediate solution that will help achieve our industry’s long-term commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Sheila Remes, Boeing VP Environmental Sustainability. “Boeing has been a pioneer in making sustainable aviation fuels a reality. Through this agreement we will reduce our carbon footprint and have SAF available for customer deliveries as well as our own operations.”
The company began test flights with SAF in 2008, and in 2011 helped achieve regulatory approval to use the fuels on commercial flights. In 2018, through its ecoDemonstrator programme, Boeing used a FedEx B777 freighter to perform the first test flight of a commercial aircraft using 100% SAF, and in 2019 started offering airlines the option to use SAF on delivery flights of new aircraft. The latest fuel purchase will support Boeing’s commercial operations in Everett, Renton and Seattle, in Washington state, and in North Charleston, South Carolina.
“Epic and Boeing have been partners for decades. Working together, we are making sustainability more attainable for our customers,” said Kyle O’Leary, Vice President and COO of Epic Fuels, an independent supplier with primary operations in the US and Canada. Epic has partnered with Boeing to test alternative fuels on Boeing 757 and 787 testbed aircraft, and with Alaska Airlines, first in a trial of biofuel produced from non-edible, sustainable corn, and later the first commercial flight using renewable alternative jet fuel produced from residual forest waste.
In Europe, ATR Regional Aircraft has just achieved seven hours of ground and flight testing of an ATR 72-600 prototype aircraft, on which one of the two engines was powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel produced from renewable waste and residues raw material such as used cooking oil. The tests were conducted with Finnish waste-to-SAF producer Neste and Swedish ATR operator Braathens Regional Airlines, as part of a collaboration to achieve certification of ATR aircraft to use 100% SAF by 2025. The three companies are planning to operate a SAF demonstration flight with a Braathens aircraft later this year.
“The achievement of this great milestone shows that we are fully committed to making the use of 100% SAF possible and helping our customers meet their objectives to provide even more sustainable air links, not in 2035 or 2050, but in the coming years,” said Stefan Bortoli, ATR’s CEO. The company has estimated that with 100% SAF in both engines, CO2 emissions from an ATR aircraft flying on a typical regional route would be reduced by 82%.
Regional jet manufacturer Embraer and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney have also announced plans to operate a demonstration flight this year using 100% SAF. The flight will be operated with an Embraer E195-E2 aircraft powered by Pratt and Whitney GTF engines. “Collaboration is an essential pre-requisite for our industry to achieve our environmental goals,” said Arjan Meijer, CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation.
GE Aviation and Emirates have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct a 100% SAF test flight by the end of this year, using an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER powered by GE90 engines.