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Aviation Sustainability and the Environment, CAPA 24-Jun-2021

Analysis

UK aviation industry bodies set interim decarbonisation targets

All Nippon Airways operates regular scheduled commercial domestic service with SAF

Edinburgh Airport sets goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2024 as part of sustainability strategy

London Gatwick Airport reports key sustainability achievements during 2020

Rolls-Royce: First run of UltraFan in 2022 to be conducted with SAF

This CAPA report features a summary of recent aviation sustainability and environment news, selected from the 300+ news alerts published daily by CAPA. For more information, please contact us.

UK aviation industry bodies set interim decarbonisation targets

UK aviation industry bodies announced (23-Jun-2021) interim decarbonisation targets as part of their commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The group recommended the UK Government implement the following measures to support the initiative:

  • Implement policies in 2021 to deliver a UK SAF industry and commercialise SAF, most urgently by providing a demand signal and price support;
  • Invest in aerospace technology and the development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen powered aircraft through increased and extended funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute;
  • Complete airspace modernisation to generate carbon savings;
  • Incentivise commercialisation of carbon removal technologies that enable carbon neutral or carbon negative aviation fuel;
  • Seek international commitment for aviation carbon reduction at the ICAO Assembly in 2022.

The group has targeted a 15% reduction in net emissions relative to 2019 by 2030, increasing to 40% by 2040.

Members of the consortium include British AirwaysAirport Operators AssociationLondon Gatwick AirportLondon Heathrow AirportManchester Airports Group and Virgin Atlantic. [more - original PR]

Original report: UK AVIATION INDUSTRY STRENGTHENS COMMITMENT TO ACHIEVING NET ZERO AND LAUNCHES FIRST INTERIM DECARBONISATION TARGETS

  • UK aviation announces new interim decarbonisation targets of at least 15% by 2030 and 40% by 2040, having reaffirmed their commitment to net-zero by 2050
  • New interim targets lay foundations for rapid acceleration of aviation decarbonisation in the coming decades, with new data on the impact of Covid-19 on aviation demand
  • Aviation leaders warn that progress cannot be taken for granted and urge Government to invest in clean aircraft technologies, sustainable aviation fuels, and airspace modernisation over the next decade in support of a green post-pandemic recovery

Today the UK’s leading airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air service navigation providers have reaffirmed their joint commitment to a net-zero future for UK aviation, setting out a first set of interim decarbonisation targets that will act as milestones on the path to net-zero aviation by 2050.

Industry is targeting at least an overall 15% reduction in net emissions relative to 2019 by 2030, and a 40% net reduction by 2040, with the pace of decarbonisation ramping up as game-changing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), permanent carbon removal, and new low and zero-carbon technologies – such as electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft – become mainstream in the 2030s.

These milestones are reflected on a new chart taking account of the effects of Covid-19 on aviation demand and complement an ever-growing set of voluntary industry pledges to drive down emissions fast. Importantly, today’s announcement also kickstarts detailed work to update by the middle of next year the sector’s Decarbonisation Road Map, first published in 2020, that is expected to demonstrate even faster potential to decarbonise aviation through technology innovation.

Decarbonising aviation is a huge challenge, with significant technology and policy barriers that need to be overcome this decade. With the right support, it can and will be achieved, maintaining the major economic and social benefits of the UK’s air links to the world, and generating new opportunities for tomorrow’s engineers through highly skilled green aviation jobs. However, the UK risks falling behind as other countries including the United States put in place enhanced policies to support innovation and new fuel technologies.

To make sure UK aviation continues to lead the world in aviation decarbonisation, further support is needed in five areas critical to realising net-zero flight:

  1. Key policies this year to deliver a UK SAF industry and commercialise SAF, most urgently by providing a demand signal and price support – the primer for up to 14 UK plants generating sustainable fuel from household and industrial waste by the middle 2030s, supporting at least a 32% reduction in emissions from UK aviation by 2050;
  2. A positive, long-term signal for investment in aerospace technology and the development of hybrid, electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft through increased and extended funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute;
  3. The completion of vital airspace modernisation generating significant carbon savings through more efficient flying and shorter journey times;
  4. Policies that incentivise the commercialisation of carbon removal technologies that enable carbon neutral or carbon negative aviation fuel, allowing the aviation industry to address any remaining residual emissions;
  5. UK Government to seek a more robust international commitment for aviation carbon reduction at the ICAO Assembly in 2022, ensuring emissions are reduced across the globe and not exported from the UK.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP said in response:

“As the first major economy in the world to commit to net-zero by 2050, we are leading the charge to cut aviation emissions through the Jet Zero Council.

“The commitment shown here by industry today builds on that work, embodying the forward-thinking attitude we need to decarbonise the sector and put the UK at the forefront of green aviation.”

Commenting on the launch of these targets, Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industry Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng MP said:

“These targets are an important milestone for the British aviation industry and show that airports, aerospace manufacturers and airlines share in our ambition to adopt the new and emerging technologies necessary to fight climate change.

“Working with industry through our Jet Zero Council, we are putting the decarbonisation of the aviation sector at the centre of our plans to build back greener from the pandemic and this industry roadmap complements our vision perfectly.”

Chair of Sustainable Aviation Adam Morton said:

UK aviation led the world last year by being the first national aviation body in the world to commit to net zero by 2050. We are now raising the bar by committing to additional interim milestones to hold ourselves accountable on this journey to Jet Zero.

“This is ambitious but achievable, and requires meaningful cooperation between industry and Government, as well as the necessary policies and funding to ensure the UK can build a world-leading SAF industry, create new clean aircraft, and modernise British airspace.”

See below for quotes from a range of CEOs of Sustainable aviation member organisation, responding to the launch of these interim decarbonisation targets:

  • Sean Doyle, CEO, British Airways, said: 
    “We fully support this important commitment to 2030 and 2040 carbon reduction targets demonstrating that as an industry we are taking action now to reduce our carbon emissions and put us on the pathway to our ultimate ambition of Net Zero Emissions by 2050”
  • Kevin Craven, Chief Executive, ADS said: 
    “The UK’s aerospace manufacturers are deeply committed to achieving net zero aviation and being world leaders in delivering the advanced green technologies that will make this ambition a reality. 

    “Our members are investing heavily in innovative R&D projects focussed on driving down carbon emissions, by boosting fuel efficiency in the aircraft of today and creating the radical new propulsion systems and components that will drive the aircraft of tomorrow. 

    “We are working closely with Government and the Jet Zero Council to make sure UK industry plays a major role in delivering net zero aviation by 2050, meeting our national environmental commitments and enhancing our prosperity.”

  • Karen Dee, Chief Executive at Airport Operators Association, said: 
    “Despite the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, airports remain committed to tackling the climate crisis. As the AOA set out in our Airport Recovery Plan, we can and must return to 2019 passenger levels without 2019 environmental impacts. Airports will play their part in achieving the goals set out by Sustainable Aviation today, including by modernising UK airspace to reduce noise and climate impacts, ensuring airport infrastructure is ready for sustainable aviation fuels and reducing ground-based emissions of buildings and vehicles operating on and around airports.”
  • Stewart Wingate, CEO, Gatwick Airport, said: 
    “Achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050 is both a great challenge and an opportunity for our industry.   Sustainable Aviation’s decarbonisation roadmap and interim goals set out clear milestones and we’re ready to play our part at Gatwick, through implementing the roadmap’s first decade milestones and by keeping the roadmap updated to incorporate additional technology solutions for the 2030s.”
  • John Holland-Kaye, CEO, Heathrow Airport, said: 
    “Today’s announcement demonstrates the sector’s commitment to delivering Net Zero emissions by 2050 despite the impacts COVID has had on our industry. We know that flying is not the enemy – carbon is – and this roadmap illustrates how it can be removed. Our goal should be that 2019 is the peak year for carbon emissions from aviation, and that from now on, we are adapting our industry so that future generations can enjoy the many benefits of flying, in a world without carbon.” 
  • Charlie Cornish, CEO, Manchester Airport Group, said: 
    “Today’s announcement reinforces the strength of the UK aviation industry’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Despite the deeply damaging impact of the pandemic on the sector, our commitment to a greener future stands firm and working collaboratively as an industry on this roadmap means we are united in meeting the targets now ahead of us. 

    MAG has long demonstrated its commitment to sustainability and last year we published our new CSR Strategy, where we set our own target for reaching net zero by 2038 and launched an incentive for our airlines to operate the first emission free flight from one of our airports. By bringing together individual commitments like this, and the collective commitments that we have announced today, the aviation industry can move forward together towards net zero.” 

  • Henrik Wareborn, CEO, Velocys, said: 
    “Velocys goes hand in hand with the aviation industry, fuel producers and third party developers by providing a technology solution for climate change mitigation, and helping to meet net zero targets. I, therefore, welcome and support the aviation industry’s commitment to its interim decarbonisation targets, which Velocys is well positioned to enable its delivery with our unique proprietary technology. The UK is at a pivotal point where UK Government support is crucial to the success of the decarbonisation of the aviation industry with price certainty combined with demand mandates. This in turn will accelerate the deployment of the technology required to decarbonise the aviation sector ahead of 2050. However, as Sir David Attenborough points out: “It is what we do in this decade that really matters.”’ 
  • Steve Oldham, CEO, Carbon Engineering, said: 
    “For aviation to achieve net zero, we need solutions that can scale to meet the needs of a growing sector. Establishing interim targets will help solutions like permanent carbon removal and synthetic fuels made from the air to start deployment – reducing costs and demonstrating a clear path to achieve net zero aviation”
  • Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: 
    Virgin Atlantic is fully committed to becoming Net Zero by 2050 and the release of these interim targets sets out a pathway for the UK aviation industry to achieve this goal. Since 2007, we have improved our carbon efficiency by 20%, having embarked on the largest fleet transformation programme in our 37 year history. We now operate a purely twin engine fleet, further reducing our carbon emissions by 10% CO2 per flight compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

    “Now is the time for determined action from Government to lead the way in the decarbonisation of the UK airline sector. By harnessing the innovation, appetite and demand from the our world-leading aviation industry, UK Government can accelerate towards a UK Sustainable Aviation Fuel industry as part of its Green Industrial Revolution. This should include a commitment to build sustainable aviation fuel plants in the UK in this decade, supported by appropriate incentives and investment guarantees to drive technology innovation, SAF production and to bring down costs.”

All Nippon Airways operates regular scheduled commercial domestic service with SAF

All Nippon Airways operated (18-Jun-2021) a regular scheduled commercial domestic service utilising sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from microalgae, blended with traditional jet fuel.

The commercial service from Tokyo Haneda to Osaka Itami with Boeing 787-8 operated on 17-Jun-2021, using SAF produced in partnership with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation. [more - original PR]

Original report: ANA Conducted a Flight Using Sustainable Aviation Fuel Produced from Microalgae

  • ANA operated a domestic commercial flight on June 17, 2021 using SAF produced as part of project led by NEDO
  • SAF is expected to play a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions of aviation, and ANA will continue to work together with partners to construct a supply chain for SAF as part of its effort to contribute to large-scale commercial production in Japan

All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's largest and 5-Star airline for eight consecutive years, took another step forward in advancing its leadership in sustainability, operating a regulary scheduled commercial domestic flight utilizing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from microalgae, blended with traditional jet fuel.

The SAF fueled flight was realized in partner with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) - a prominent Japanese public research and development body - which aims to develop integrated production technology for SAF, with the IHI Corporation supplying SAF used on the ANA flight. The Civil Aviation Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Resources have led the initiative to establish and promote supply chains for SAF, bringing together related parties in the NEDO project.

The ANA flight was the first flight in the world to use SAF certified to meet ASTM D7566 Annex71 jet fuel specifications.

ANA has pledged to become a carbon-neutral airline by 2050, with enhanced utilization of SAF being a key factor in achieving its ESG goals. ANA's efforts have contributed to ANA being placed on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, a leading global index for socially responsible investment, for four consecutive years. ANA is also the only airline to receive the Gold Class rating (the highest recognition) in S&P Global's Sustainability Awards 2021. Under the ANA Future Promiseblank initiative, ANA is committed to playing its part in pushing towards a sustainable future, and by working together with partners, ANA will continue to engage in development and transition to sustainable aviation fuel.

  • 1 ASTM D7566 Annex7 : Standard for alternative jet fuel for aviation defined by ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials). Annex7 defines a liquid hydrocarbon fuel obtained by hydrogenating crude oil (mainly hydrocarbon) extracted from the microalga Botryococcus braunii. IHI independently applied for the standard to ASTM and it was approved in May 2020.

Edinburgh Airport sets goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2024 as part of sustainability strategy

Edinburgh Airport published (23-Jun-2021) its 'Greater Good' sustainability strategy, featuring the following four key pillars:

  • Improve the airport's approach to climate change;
  • Create an airport to showcase the best of Scotland whilst delivering the best passenger experience possible;
  • Work with people, passengers and partners to create a business with integrity;
  • Share the benefits of sustainable growth with neighbouring communities and mitigate any negative impacts.

The strategy includes construction of an eleven acre solar farm to provide 26% of the airport's energy, as part of a goal of reaching carbon neutrality for direct emissions by 2024. [more - original PR]

Original report: Greater Good – Edinburgh Airport’s strategy for a sustainable future

Eleven-acre solar farm to be constructed as airport becomes carbon neutral.

An eleven-acre solar farm is to be constructed on Edinburgh Airport’s airfield as the airport publishes its sustainability strategy, Greater Good.

The announcement and strategy comes on the same day as the airport confirms carbon neutral status for emissions under its direct control, demonstrating its commitment to a more sustainable future.

The solar farm, the first of its kind at a Scottish airport, will provide 26% of the airport’s energy needs and construction is due to begin later this year. The facility is expected to be operational next summer and has been supported by Scottish Government funding of £2 million.

The project is one element of the airport’s new sustainability strategy, Greater Good, which sets out how the airport will work towards being more sustainable now and in the future. An important characteristic of the strategy is the fact that a sustainable future depends on not only reducing environmental impacts, such as carbon, but also how the airport manages and enhances its social and economic impacts

The Greater Good strategy focuses on four key pillars to achieve a sustainable future for the airport:

  • Zero Carbon – working in partnership to improve our approach to climate change
  • Enhancing Scotland – creating an airport to showcase the best of Scotland whilst delivering the best passenger experience possible
  • Scotland’s Best Business – as a hub and facilitator industry, we will work with our people, passengers and partners to create a business with integrity
  • Trusted Neighbour – working with our neighbouring communities we will share the benefits of sustainable growth with them and mitigate any negative impacts

The strategy has a number of targets within it, such as achieving carbon neutrality for direct emissions by 2024, establishing a campus wide sustainability standard as well as a Cleaner Engine Standard.   The Greater Good strategy also takes into account some of the work already being carried out at the airport, such as purchasing 100% renewable electricity since 2018, diverting all waste from landfill, paying all staff the Real Living Wage and our commitment to the Modern Slavery Act.

Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport said:

“Our sustainability strategy is about more than just carbon; it’s about making our business, Scotland’s gateway to the world, sustainable and a social and economic asset that serves future generations. To do that, we have to carefully consider our impact on the environment and act accordingly. Our operations are already carbon neutral and while we are proud of that, we know there is more to do for the greater good of Scotland.

“For an island economy, travel is an important reality and we need to have a sensible conversation about how to balance the desire and need to travel – whether to see family or do business - in the wake of the pandemic and making our industry cleaner and greener. It’s a challenge for all sectors but particularly for ours.

“Aviation is a force for good in Scotland. It’s a significant employer and it directly supports tourism, our universities, business and culture, making a major contribution to the economy.

“A sustainable future is what we all want and in the year that COP26 comes to Scotland we all have a duty to set out our plans to tackle emissions. We’re excited to get started on that path with the ambitious actions and targets set out in Greater Good.”

On the construction of the solar farm, Gordon added:

“We are excited to be the UK’s first airport to construct a solar farm on an airfield. Some may doubt the power of sun in Scotland, but our solar farm will deliver around 26% of our energy needs and allow us to deliver energy back into the grid when we produce more than we need.

“This project illustrates our commitment to making environmental improvements and is something passengers will actually be able to see as they arrive or depart. We want to be a leading voice and advocate for a new and improved approach. We will continue to identify opportunities to help us move towards our goals because we know Greater Good will evolve with the climate landscape.”

The Scottish Government’s Minister for Transport, Graeme Dey said:

“I’m delighted to learn of the heartening efforts of Edinburgh Airport to reduce their emissions.

“The solar farm, in particular, illustrates how Government and the aviation industry can work together to help achieve Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets.

“Together, we can look to create a future in which we enjoy the social and economic benefits of air travel without having an impact on the environment.”

London Gatwick Airport reports key sustainability achievements during 2020

London Gatwick Airport reported (17-Jun-2021) the following sustainability and local community support achievements during 2020:

  • 95% of services operated by two cleanest categories of aircraft;
  • Reusing or recycling 67% of the 3787 tonnes of materials collected across the airport's operations, and maintaining zero untreated waste to landfill for the fifth consecutive year;
  • Biodiversity benchmark accreditation renewed for seventh consecutive year;
  • Spent GBP48 million with local and regional suppliers;
  • Gatwick Foundation Fund awarded 23 grants totalling GBP100,000 to community groups;
  • Gatwick Airport Community Trust awarded grants totalling GBP230,000 to 113 projects;
  • More than 100 laptops issued to support local students with home schooling during the pandemic;
  • Four more apprentices joined airport's engineering apprenticeship programme. [more - original PR]

Original report: Gatwick publishes its second ‘Decade of Change’ goals – a sustainability policy looking ahead to 2030

Gatwick has today published its second Decade of Change sustainability policy which looks ahead to 2030 and sets out the airport’s goals on the transition to Net Zero, contributing to local environmental stewardship and supporting the local economy, people and communities. 

The 2030 goals take account of local and national sustainability priorities and will enable Gatwick to play its part in national and international action to deliver on the Paris Agreement to limit climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The new Decade of Change policy – the second of its kind produced by Gatwick - focuses on a renewed set of 10 goals set over the next 10 years, including:

Transition to Net Zero and further improve local air quality: 

  • Reduce the airport’s own direct emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by a further 25% by 2030 – so that emissions have reduced by 80% against a 1990 baseline - as part of a science-based goal of reaching net zero before 2040
  • Work with airlines and fuel providers to implement the Sustainable Aviation decarbonisation roadmap and interim goals; and set a science-based target for Gatwick
  • Working with transport partners to increase public transport and zero and ultra-low emission journeys to 60% by 2030
  • Local environment stewardship:
  • Achieve zero waste by ensuring that all materials used in operations, commercial activity and construction are repurposed for beneficial use i.e. repaired, reused, recycled etc 
  • Reducing potable water consumption by 50% per passenger, compared to 2019 levels 
  • Continue a sector leading net gain approach to protecting and enhancing biodiversity and habitats on the airport, including zero use of pesticides by 2030 

People and communities: 

  • Continue to be a partner and advocate by continuing to invest resources in partnerships and projects which benefit the local economy and local people  
  • Continue to contribute to local and regional workforce skills partnerships and initiatives  
  • Increase workforce diversity and ensure accessibility and opportunity for colleagues and passengers with disabilities
  • Limit and where possible reduce the airport’s impact on local communities by working with partners and stakeholders to create the most noise efficient operation possible 
  • Stewart Wingate, CEO, Gatwick Airport said: “We met or exceeded our first Decade of Change goals and as we enter the second decade our commitment to a sustainable Gatwick is stronger than ever. Our policy recognises the importance of taking an integrated approach to economic, societal and environmental issues and solutions.  

“By combining a healthy economy, sensible use of financial resources, human and technological innovation, teamwork and partnerships, over the next ten years Gatwick will work towards becoming a net zero airport, conserving water and sustaining good jobs and strong, inclusive employment, to benefit the local community, the environment and the economy.” 

Gatwick also reported today on the airport’s sustainability achievements over the past year, which has been heavily impacted by the effects of COVID-19 and a significant downturn in passenger volumes. Key achievements for 2020 that support the local community and environment, include:  

  • 95% of Gatwick flights being operated by the two cleanest categories of aircraft
  • Reusing or recycling 67% of the 3,787 tonnes of materials collected across the airport’s operations and maintaining zero untreated waste to landfill for the fifth consecutive year
  • Gatwick’s Biodiversity Benchmark accreditation was renewed for the 7th consecutive year
  • Gatwick spent £48m with local and regional suppliers during 2020
  • Gatwick Foundation Fund awarded 23 grants totalling £100,000 to community groups that help over 15,000 people; and the Gatwick Airport Community Trust awarded grants totalling £230,000 to 113 projects
  • More than 100 laptops were issued to support local students with home schooling during the pandemic and four more apprentices joined airport’s engineering apprenticeship programme.

hange policy – the second of its kind produced by Gatwick - focuses on a renewed set of 10 goals set over the next 10 years"

Rolls-Royce: First run of UltraFan in 2022 to be conducted with SAF

Rolls-Royce chief customer officer, civil aerospace Jacqui Sutton, via the company's official blog, stated (16-Jun-2021) the first run of the UltraFan next generation demonstrator engine is scheduled for 2022 and will be conducted with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

This will prove SAF is "ready to power our engines of the future" and will provide "continued reassurance to everyone involved with aviation of its suitability".

It is anticipated that the UltraFan will be available for service around the end of the 2020s, offering a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the Trent 700. [more - original PR]

Original report: Our sustainability journey

The journey to sustainability may seem like something relatively recent but in fact dates back decades, with that destination often going under another name. Jacqui Sutton, Chief Customer Officer, Civil Aerospace, explains.

Sometimes the most remarkable journeys are made up of the shortest steps, and sometimes they can take you to new, unexpected, destinations.

In the world of science and engineering there are the occasional Eureka moments, but progress is normally defined by small, continual, improvements. And when those incremental advances are put together they make a sizeable difference.

The gas turbine is just such an example. Its originator, Sir Frank Whittle, would be able to recognise both the product and the principles of how it delivers propulsion 80 years after his W.1 engine took to the skies for the first time.

But he would marvel at the incredible engineering that has driven the aero engine industry – firstly to make their engines ever more reliable and then, in a post-OPEC world where fuelling flight became a significant cost element, efficiency.

Teams of scientists have finessed each of the 38,000 parts of a gas turbine to create each percentage of efficiency improvements.

We have constantly taken physics to its limits on this search. Over the decades we have refined how to create a high-pressure turbine blade as a single crystal of a specialist alloy in a vacuum furnace.  As it grows, it incorporates a complex series of air passages to cool the blade. Then it needs external cooling holes created by incredibly accurate laser drilling. And on top of all that is a thermal barrier coating that enables it to live in the high-pressure turbine, where the gas temperature is at least 400 degrees above the melting point of the blade’s alloy. Every time the plane takes-off this single blade develops the same horsepower as a Formula 1 racing car, and yet it can travel 10 million miles before it needs replacing. 

That sort of performance, achieved under extremes of heat and pressure, requires a precision of design and manufacture that is measured in microns – to the thickness of a human hair, and it has to be exactly right. Every time.

If we take the fan blade, it may look unchanged over the years, but look closer and look inside and we see continual change. From straight edges to scimitar-shaped blades designed to cut through the air more effectively, from solid steel to titanium blades that are actually hollow with reinforced girders within them – through a process known as superplastic formation and diffusion bonding – each improvement has had to prove itself and its efficiency benefits to make its way onto the final product.

Each improvement has had an enormous amount of engineering support. Each new Trent engine has been the result of years of development involving thousands of scientists and engineers, and a development programme where we have run, tested, examined and, in some cases, destroyed nine full engines over 18 months of frenetic activity.

Each improvement has taken efficiency that bit further forward. The creators of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine that first flew in service in 2015 and is the most efficient large gas turbine flying today, are able to look back and recognise that their creation is 15 per cent more efficient than the very first Trent, the Trent 700, that entered service in 1995. Or, if they wanted to cast their gaze back even further, 80 per cent more efficient than the engines that powered aircraft of the 1960s.

But that search for efficiency was always part of another journey – towards sustainability.

For every fraction of a percent saved in fuel burn is, of course, a fraction of a percent saved in resulting emissions. And while that has always been recognised, it has never been of more consequence than now, as we prepare to reconnect again but have a greater appreciation of just how fragile the world is. And that is why the efficiency journey continues, perhaps with even more urgency than ever before.

We see it right now in the latest engines just taking to the skies. To return to those cooling holes, we are now taking their capabilities to the next level thanks to Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM), also known as 3D printing.

Our Pearl 10x business jet engine features cooling holes that can, remarkably, turn back on themselves in a loop and then fan out onto their combustor tiles. Why is this important? Because performing that loop means the cooling air picks up the heat from the tiles in the most effective way and the fan-shaped hole exit generate a uniform protective film of air on the hot combustor tile surface. And ALM allows those holes to be created where they couldn’t be done before. The outcome? More efficient combustor cooling, a reduction in turbine “hot spots” and lower emissions.

And ALM doesn’t stop there, it has the capability to replace traditional manufacturing to create parts that are lighter – and reduced weight further reduces fuel burn emissions.

This patient journey is neverending and even as Pearl 10X prepares to enter service, a variety of programmes are underway to take efficiency and sustainability to the next level.

A demonstrator for the next generation of Rolls-Royce gas turbine is being built right now in Derby. UltraFan®, a scaleable technology capable of powering both narrowbody and widebody future aircraft programmes continues to use technology to drive even more improvements.

They include further improvements to the engine core architecture including lean burn technology, new carbon/titanium fan blades and composite casing, advanced ceramic matrix composites, and a new geared design powered by the world’s most powerful gearbox in aerospace.

It is anticipated that UltraFan will be available for service around the turn of the decade, and when its creators look back, they will recognise they have taken fuel efficiency a whole 25% further than the Trent 700.

The development of UltraFan, and the broader sustainability journey, cannot be undertaken without broader support. That includes a myriad of industrial partnerships and also, importantly, governmental support too.

That’s why we were recently delighted to host UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as he opened our newly-built Testbed 80 facility – where UltraFan will run for the first time. As Mr Kwarteng said: “This testbed here in Derby shows that the UK remains a global leader in aeroengine technology. I’m proud that we’re supporting Rolls-Royce’s development of the highly-efficient UltraFan engine, as well as investment in green and cutting-edge aerospace technology here in the UK that will create high-skilled, well-paid jobs for decades to come.

“As the civil aviation market recovers, the innovation of great British companies such as Rolls-Royce and the entire aerospace sector are central to our plans to build back better from the pandemic and end our contribution to climate change by 2050.”

But new opportunities are also emerging that can completely transform gas turbine sustainability, not through further improvements to its inner working, but from the fuel itself.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel offers a transformative future for aviation, creating a cycle of creation and use that has the potential to reduce net CO2 lifecycle emissions by more than 75% compared with traditional jet fuel, or even zero emissions if created by nuclear power plant.

The challenges are making it to scale, making it economically viable, and proving it is technically feasible to use. We are supporting efforts to bring the aviation sector, fuel industry, governments and industry bodies together to break through the barriers that apply to the first issue.

In terms of economics UltraFan’s efficiency will help improve the economics of an industry transition to more sustainable fuels, which are likely to be more expensive in the short-term than traditional jet fuel. And we are committed to demonstrating there are no barriers to SAF’s use in an engine.

We’ve already run current Trent and Pearl engines on ground tests using 100% SAF, and found no issues regarding engine performance. And we’ve supported the ECLIF3 (Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels) programme that has now flown an Airbus A350 aircraft, powered by a Trent XWB engine.

We will also prove SAF is ready to power our engines of the future – the very first run of UltraFan in 2022 will be on 100% SAF, providing continued reassurance to everyone involved with aviation of its suitability.

Beyond UltraFan there is no shortage of opportunities to improve the gas turbine even further – through electrification, hydrogen, and new materials to just name a few. It will be a continued journey of relentless research, continual testing, and further progress towards an ever-more sustainable world.

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