Emirates operates milestone demonstration flight powered with Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Source: press release, 30 January 2023

photo: Emirates
photo: Emirates

Emirates, the world’s largest international airline by destinations, has operated its first milestone demonstration flight on a Boeing 777-300ER, powering one of its engines 100% with Neste’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The flight took off on 30 January from Dubai International Airport (DXB) flying for more than one hour over the Dubai coastline. It is the first demonstration flight in the Middle East and North Africa in which one of the aircraft engines was powered by 100% SAF.

Emirates’ demonstration flight supports broader efforts to work towards a future where aircraft are certified to run on 100% SAF fuels. It adds to the body of data paving the way for standardisation and future approval of 100% SAF as a replacement for conventional jet fuel, well above the currently allowed 50% blend limit. The test flight further demonstrates the compatibility of SAF as a safe and reliable propulsion source, and validates that no changes to the aircraft, engines, fuelling infrastructure, or special maintenance are required on the Boeing 777-300ER or GE90 engine.

Neste and Emirates worked alongside partners GE Aerospace, Boeing, Honeywell and Virent for over a year to develop a sustainable fuel that closely replicates the properties of conventional jet fuel. Neste provided their approved Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel™ (HEFA-SPK*) to which aromatic components in Virent’s HDO-SAK** were added to produce a 100% drop-in jet fuel that meets all the jet fuel requirements. Eighteen tons of SAF fully made from renewable raw materials powered one GE90 engine during the flight, with conventional fossil jet fuel powering the other engine.

“This flight is a milestone moment for Emirates and a positive step for our industry as we work collectively to address one of our biggest challenges – reducing our carbon footprint. It has been a long journey to finally see this experimental SAF flight take off. Such initiatives are critical contributors not only to the industry body of knowledge, but also to demonstrating the use of higher blends of SAF for future regulatory approvals. We hope that landmark demonstration flights like this one will help open the door to scale up the SAF supply chain and make it more available and accessible across geographies, and most importantly, affordable for broader industry adoption in the future,” says Adel Al Redha, Chief Operating Officer, Emirates Airline.

“Sustainable Aviation Fuel plays a crucial role in reducing the emissions of air travel, but to fully leverage its decarbonisation potential we need to enable 100% SAF use. Test flights like this Emirates flight with Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel are an important step towards 100% SAF certification. Neste is working closely together with partners to accelerate the availability and use of SAF as we increase our SAF production capacity to 1.5 million tons per annum by the end of this year. We look forward to growing the supply of SAF also to Dubai,” says Jonathan Wood, Vice President EMEA, Renewable Aviation at Neste.

SAF is a next generation aviation fuel produced without crude oil, providing a more sustainable alternative to conventional, fossil based jet fuel. Using Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel™ reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%*** over the fuel’s life cycle, compared to using conventional jet fuel. Neste’s SAF is made from sustainably sourced, 100% renewable waste and residue raw materials, such as used cooking oil.

* HEFA-SPK: Hydro processed Esters and Fatty Acids – Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene; one of the seven approved pathways for the production of SAF and currently the only commercially viable production pathway and the pathway Neste uses to produce SAF.
** HDO-SAK: Hydro Deoxygenated Synthetic Aromatic Kerosene. SAK produced by Virent is made from plant-based feedstocks and approved for use in tests. It provides the aromatics in the fuel necessary in order to ensure the proper swelling of the elastomeric seals in the fuel systems and prevent leakage.
*** When used in neat form (i.e. unblended) and calculated with established life cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies, such as CORSIA methodology.