Embracing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) offers a “quick win” for the industry to decarbonise in the coming years, according to Gaël Méheust, president and CEO of CFM International.
“The effort that we have to do to be net zero carbon by 2050 requires [us] to work on several pillars,” Méheust explained.
“One is technology, and at CFM because we are the leader in aircraft engines, we feel a responsibility to bring to the market a state-of-the-art engine by the middle of the next decade.
“We have launched a technology acquisition and maturation programme called RISE – Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines – and by the middle of the next decade we are going to bring to the market an engine that will be 20 per cent better in fuel efficiency than today’s engines.”
80 per cent CO2 savings
Turning to sustainable fuels, he added: “There are other ways in parallel that need to be pursued to meet the objective. The other one is the use of SAF, which is a quick win for decarbonisation of the industry.
“Up to 80 per cent in saving of CO2 compared to jet fuel in a life cycle approach, and they are what we call drop in solutions, they go from existing engines into existing aeroplanes. No modification is required. We just did a series of tests that have proven that the LEAP engines, the 1A and the 1B, work perfectly with 100 per cent SAF.”
Méheust continued: “The industry has to work on the production of sustainable aviation fuel, the airlines have to get onboard to increase the use of SAF, and last but not least, the governments have to step in and find a way to incentivise the production of SAF because the more production, the bigger the economy of scale, the lower the cost.”
The CFM president and CEO also commented on the impact new hydrogen technology is likely to have.
Acknowledging that there were still a “few challenges that need to be overcome”, he said: “Hydrogen is the true zero carbon emission fuel: that is why it is so attractive for us.”
He added that CFM engineers are confident that a commercial engine can work with hydrogen. “We have good hopes that it will, and in order to demonstrate it we have partnered with Airbus and we will flight test, in the middle of this decade, an engine which will not be a CFM engine, it will be a GE Passport engine but with the same characteristics as a LEAP engine – and it will be flight tested on an A380. We will demonstrate that an existing engine modified accordingly will be able to burn hydrogen perfectly.”
Successfully addressing the sustainability challenge requires a collaborative approach between industry partners and governments, Méheust said.
“It is really a global approach that is going to make it [net zero] feasible,” he said, adding that decision makers around the world should “create the right policies to help airlines to use SAF and to subsidise research and technology … that holistic approach is the one that is going to take us to net zero by 2050.”
Looking 15 years ahead, he predicted SAF will be “cheaper to buy than jet fuel, I am convinced, so airlines will be using SAF. We will be introducing new engines, and if the airframers are ready, we will be putting this new engine from the RISE programme into an ultra-efficient aeroplane. By 2035 we will be reaching very far into the goal for 2050.”