Emirates has conducted a test flight with 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in one engine of a B777-300ER. The flight, conducted in partnership with GE Aerospace, Boeing, Honeywell, Neste and Virent, took off from Dubai International Airport (DXB), and flew for more than one hour over the Dubai coastline.
The flight is the first in the Middle East and North Africa to be powered by 100 per cent SAF and is part of the progress to support future certification where 100 per cent drop-in SAF fuel is approved for aircraft. Currently, SAF is approved for use in all aircraft, but only in blends of up to 50 per cent with conventional jet fuel.
Emirates worked alongside partners GE Aerospace, Boeing, Honeywell, Neste and Virent to procure and develop a blend of SAF that closely replicates the properties of conventional jet fuel. At each blend ratio, a host of chemical and physical fuel property measurements were carried out. After multiple lab tests and rigorous trials, they arrived at a blending ratio that mirrored the qualities of jet fuel. Eighteen tonnes of SAF were blended, comprised of HEFA-SPK provided by Neste (hydro processed esters and fatty acids and synthetic paraffinic kerosene) and HDO-SAK from Virent (hydro deoxygenated synthetic aromatic kerosene). The 100 per cent SAF supplied one GE90 engine, with conventional jet fuel supplying the other engine.
The test flight further demonstrates the compatibility of the specially blended SAF as a safe and reliable fuel source. The promising outcome of this initiative also adds to the body of industry data and research around SAF blends in higher proportions, paving the way for standardization and future approval of 100 per cent drop-in SAF as a replacement for jet fuel, well above the current 50 per cent blend limit.
The airline already runs a comprehensive fuel efficiency programme that actively investigates and implements ways to reduce unnecessary fuel burn and emissions, wherever it is operationally feasible. Some of the programme’s most significant initiatives include the operation of “flex tracks”, or flexible routings – partnering with air navigation service providers to create the most efficient flight plan for each flight. These efforts have been ongoing since 2003, and Emirates has been working with IATA to extend this routing system across the world as a standard operating procedure where possible.
Emirates’ first flight powered by SAF blended with jet fuel was in 2017, operating from Chicago O’Hare airport on a Boeing 777. It received its first SAF-powered A380 delivery in 2020, and also uplifted 32 tonnes of SAF for its flights from Stockholm that same year.