Today the Airbus A380 has launched the companyâ€™s alternative fuel research programme by becoming the first commercial aircraft to fly with a synthetic liquid fuel processed from gas (Gas to Liquids â€“ GTL) in a three hour flight between Filton, UK and Toulouse, France. The aircraft (F-WWDD) is wearing a new slogan painted on the fuselage, “Greener. Cleaner. Quieter. Smarter.”
The A380, todayâ€™s most fuel efficient airliner, is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines, while Shell International Petroleum is providing the Shell GTL Jet Fuel. The Airbus tests are running in parallel to the agreement signed in November 2007 with Qatar Airways, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Fuels, Qatar Science & Technology Park, Rolls Royce and Shell International Petroleum Company to research the potential benefits of synthetic jet fuel processed from gas. The findings of the tests will benefit the consortiumâ€™s research.
Under Airbusâ€™ overall alternatives fuels research programme, this is the first step of a long-term Airbus testing phase to evaluate viable and sustainable alternative fuels for the future. GTL could be available at certain locations to make it a practical and viable drop-in alternative fuel for commercial aviation in the short term. GTL has attractive characteristics for local air quality, as well as some benefits in terms of aircraft fuel burn relative to existing jet fuel. For instance, it is virtually free of sulphur. Synthetic fuel can be made from a range of hydrocarbon source material including natural gas or organic plant matter made by a process called Fischer-Tropsch.
Testing GTL today will support future second generation bio-fuels, but which are not presently available in sufficient commercial quantities. Airbus will study viable second generation bio-fuels when they become available.