Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce Set Sights on Trans-Atlantic Flight Powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce Set Sights on Trans-Atlantic Flight Powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel

In a resolute effort to curtail carbon emissions, airlines are increasingly backing audacious showcases of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The latest groundbreaking initiative hails from Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce, who have unveiled their joint endeavor to conduct a trans-Atlantic flight exclusively utilizing 100 percent SAF. Scheduled for November 2023, this milestone flight is poised to spotlight the potential of sustainable aviation. Accompanying them in this endeavor are Air bp and Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum specializing in biofuels.

Rolls-Royce made recent headlines by successfully propelling a Trent 1000 engine using an SAF blend. This achievement paves the way for the pivotal demonstration flight, set to take place aboard a Boeing 787 on November 28, 2023. Facilitating this ambitious project, Air bp and Virent will contribute 60 tons of SAF.

For this demonstration, SAF will be harnessed through hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), a prevalent chemical pathway. HEFA primarily employs waste vegetable oil, fats, and oil residues as its raw materials. Additionally, the project will leverage the Synthetic Aviation Kerosene (SAK) pathway, employing the Fischer-Tropsch process and a diverse range of feedstocks to produce synthetic kerosene.

Virgin highlights that SAF holds the potential to diminish carbon life-cycle emissions by an impressive 70 percent, as it acknowledges the carbon absorbed by its feedstocks. This initiative aligns with the aviation industry's broader goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, a formidable task that necessitates substantial progress. Currently, SAF constitutes less than 0.1 percent of Jet A volume and is priced at two to four times the cost of conventional petroleum-derived Jet A.

The forthcoming trans-Atlantic flight stands as a powerful testament to the aviation industry's resolute commitment to exploring sustainable solutions and ushering in a more environmentally conscious era of air travel.
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