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Aviation giant P&W to use 100 percent sustainable fuel for engine tests

The aviation industry aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney signed a memorandum of understanding with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) producer Air bp to use blends of up to 100 percent SAF on upcoming engine tests and research, a press statement reveals.

The agreement comes shortly after the aviation industry set a goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Other large aviation firms are also showing a commitment to testing and using SAFs. Earlier this month, Airbus flew one of its double-decker A380 airliners using 100 percent SAF derived mainly from cooking oil. Rolls-Royce is also running tests with a view to powering its engines using sustainable alternative fuel in the future.

Pratt & Whitney and Air bp will work together to provide new insight into fuel performance emissions reductions using SAF. The alternative fuel has been touted as an efficient way to vastly reduce carbon emissions for aviation, which accounts for approximately 2 percent of all global carbon emissions annually.

Electric propulsion and battery technology currently aren't advanced enough to power long-haul passenger planes, though drop-in fuels such as SAF can be used with existing technology to greatly reduce emissions.

The aviation industry "must use multiple approaches"

SAF isn't the only route these companies are taking, however. Pratt & Whitney says it is also developing hybrid-electric systems, and hydrogen fuel technologies. Airbus, meanwhile, announced it will also use an A380 airliner to test hydrogen propulsion systems by 2026.

Simple engine efficiency also goes a long way towards cutting emissions, explains Graham Webb, Chief Sustainability Officer at Pratt & Whitney. "The commercial aviation industry must use multiple approaches when it comes to addressing the challenges of sustainable aviation," Webb says. "One immediate opportunity is to radically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while we continue to improve engine efficiency."

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So far, the FAA has only authorized the use of 50 percent SAF blended with kerosene, and firms including Pratt & Whitney, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and others are working to earn 100 percent SAF certification, which would go a long way to helping the aviation industry achieve its carbon net-zero goals.

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