Rolls-Royce, the jet engine maker, said all products launched after 2030 will be able to operate with net zero carbon emissions under decarbonization plans that rely heavily on replacing fossil fuels with alternatives. synthetics which have yet to be approved.
The manufacturer and other airlines face a huge challenge in reducing the carbon emissions of their products. No existing technology can transport passengers around the world without producing tons of carbon dioxide.
Instead, Rolls-Royce is pinning its hopes on synthetic fuels, which the industry calls “sustainable aviation fuels,” or SAF. Almost chemically identical, but produced from non-petroleum sources, the fuels could theoretically result in significantly lower or even zero carbon emissions throughout their lifecycle.
Rolls-Royce plans to get regulatory approval by 2023 for the use of synthetic fuels in all engine models currently in production, the company said Thursday. This would mean that two-thirds of existing planes using Rolls-Royce engines could be retrofitted with minor technical modifications.
However, the company has so far been unable to commit to a scientific goal – the gold standard – to reduce its carbon emissions, due to uncertainty over the growth of the supply of synthetic fuel.
Managing Director Warren East said Rolls-Royce faced a “double challenge”, but decarbonization would provide a “business opportunity”.
“Our customers use our products and services in sectors where demand for electricity is increasing, and these sectors are also among the most difficult to decarbonize,” he said.
In March, an Airbus A350 powered by Rolls-Royce engines flew on 100% synthetic fuel for the first time, but zero-emission long-haul flights have yet to be performed on synthetic fuels, and they remain much more expensive. than petroleum fuels.
British Airways plans to operate transatlantic flights partly on synthetic fuel next year, after investing in a US producer. However, oil producer Shell pulled out this year from a joint venture that aimed to produce synthetic fuel in the UK.
The production of synthetic fuels from innovative sources such as plants or even household waste is difficult to increase, while “electrofuels” – produced from the air using electricity – are between three and six times higher. more expensive, according to the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Rolls-Royce is also considering using nuclear power from small modular reactors to make electro-fuels, although the reactors are still in development.