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World’s first 100% SAF transatlantic flight nears historic take-off

Fuel blend approved as flight scheduled for 28 November 2023

  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) blend of 88% HEFA and 12% aromatics completes successful test on Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine, a key milestone in approvals process  

  • Fuel partners announced as Air BP and Virent (in collaboration with Johnson Matthey), who will supply the 60 tonnes of SAF required for project  

Virgin Atlantic has confirmed the successful SAF blend test on the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine. A key milestone has been reached in a project that will see the world’s first 100% SAF flight travel across the Atlantic, from London Heathrow to New York JFK on a Boeing 787, now set to take off on 28 November 2023. 

The SAF will be produced by blending HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids) and BioForm® SAK produced by the BioForming® S2A process technology, being developed by Virent and Johnson Matthey. The BioForming S2A process technology converts sugars into sustainable and renewable fuels. In addition to the test, fuel partners Air BP and Virent, will supply the 60 tonnes of SAF required for the research, testing and flight itself.  

The use of SAF is integral to aviation’s decarbonisation. In general, SAF delivers CO2 emissions savings of up to 70% during its lifecycle, and with fewer particulate emissions than traditional jet fuel. As a relatively new fuel option, current SAF regulation allows for just a 50% SAF blend in commercial jet engines. November’s one-off flight is intended to safely prove that this can be increased to 100%, demonstrating the potential of SAF as a drop-in replacement for fossil fuel.  

Alberto Giovanzana, Chief Commercial Officer Catalyst Technologies, Johnson Matthey, said, “This is a great step forward and demonstrates how advanced SAF has become. It will enable airlines to continue using the same fleets, the same infrastructure but with a much lower carbon footprint, which is great news for all!”  

Dave Kettner, President and General Counsel, Virent, Inc, said, “With Virent’s plant-based Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) providing essential fuel components, this test showed that 100% drop-in renewable fuel is cleaner burning and will work seamlessly in today’s commercial airline engines. We’re honoured to collaborate with Virgin Atlantic, Rolls-Royce and AirBP as these forward-looking companies lead the way in sustainable aviation. Virent shares their commitment to finding sustainable ways to fly, and we’re excited about the pivotal role our BioForm® SAK plays in making that goal a reality”. 

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