Rolls Royce announce 2023 'carbon zero' target for long-haul engines

  • Report by Sarah Kilburn-Wilson.

Derby-based Rolls Royce has announced a major initiative that it says will help clean up the aviation industry in a move tackling climate change. The aerospace engine manufacturer says that in two years' time, all of its long-haul engines, known as 'Trent' engines, will be 100% powered by sustainable fuel.

At the Rolls Royce Aerospace facility, the company today announced that all of it's Trent engines - which are used for long-haul flights - will be completely powered by sustainable fuel by 2023.

The global aviation industry produces around 2% of the world's human-induced CO2 emissions, with flights creating 915 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. 

Today's announcement in partnership with Airbus and Shell, signifies a leap forward for the aviation industry's goals of becoming net-zero carbon by 2050. 

Sustainable aviation fuels, known as SAFs, are made from things like cooking oil and household and business waste including cardboard, textiles and food waste.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

It's currently used in many engines but has to be diluted with jet fuel as the engines wouldn't be able to run on it alone.

While SAFs don't have to be mined from the ground - a lot of power and energy is still needed to produce them. Which is why the firm will also be constructing a nuclear reactor, which they say will be up and running in the next ten years.

Warren East, CEO Rolls Royce says "We can remove carbon emissions because we can make it truly net-zero. We capture the carbon out of the atmosphere we take electricity and use it to add that carbon to hydrogen that we've produced with zero-carbon electricity as well, and put the two together and create sustainable aviation fuel."

Just last year Rolls Royce cut around 9000 jobs world-wide, after suffering £5.4billion pounds of losses due to the pandemic. But says today's announcement will help secure its future.

With global leaders gathering in Glasgow for the COP26 climate change conference in just a couple of weeks, the East Midlands is on the map as where the future for sustainable aviation really took off.