July 14, 2008 CFM International continues to be at the forefront of biofuels testing and is committed to supporting the development of sustainable biofuel sources that will have minimal or no impact on food crops or water resources, or contribute to deforestation.
CFM56 engines are produced by CFM International (CFM), a 50/50 joint company of Snecma (Safran Group) and General Electric Company.
In the past year alone, CFM has successfully carried out two ground test programs of CFM56 engines using biofuels, as well as facilitating an aircraft flight using renewable fuels. In 2009, the company will support a second flight test program with Continental Airlines, when one of the airline's Boeing 737 aircraft powered by CFM56-7B engines will perform a biofuels demonstration flight test.
The airline, along with CFM parent company GE, is working to identify sustainable fuel sources that can be produced in sufficient quantities to support extensive engine ground tests prior to the flight test while meeting the criteria for no impact on food or water resources.
In 2007, CFM completed an initial test of a CFM56-7B engine using an ester-type biofuel at Snecma's Villaroche facility near Paris. The biofuel used was 30 percent vegetable oil methyl ester blended with 70 percent conventional Jet-A1 fuel.
This test was designed to validate the operation of a jet engine using a fuel made from biomass, without making any technical changes to the engine. The target for biofuels is a net reduction of 20 percent in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared with current fuels.
CFM completed several hours of ground testing at GE's outdoor Peebles, Ohio, facility in late 2007 on two alternate fuels: a Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel and an Imperium Renewables biofuel composed of babassu oil and coconut oil. In February of this year, that same Imperium fuel was then used by Virgin Atlantic to fuel one of the CF6 engines powering its own Boeing 747 aircraft on a flight from London to Amsterdam. This historic flight was the first ever flown on renewable fuel.
CFM continues to run engine tests to develop solutions based on mixtures of jet fuel and second-generation biofuels. For instance, it is currently focusing on the evaluation of alternative fuels made using biomass.
Along with its parent companies, CFM is participating in a number of emissions-focused initiatives, including the U.S. CAP (Climate Action Partnership). The company is also involved in several alternative fuels research programs, including French CALIN and European Alpha-Bird programs, dedicated to researching third-generation molecules for biofuels; and the European DREAM program, tasked with demonstrating the ability to operate aircraft with existing alternative fuels.
For alternative fuels to be used in the aviation industry, there are a number of major technology challenges that must be met, including energy density, thermal stability (avoiding coking at high temperature), use at very low temperatures (freezing) lubricating effect with materials used, and the availability of mass production facilities worldwide.
CFM has long been a leader in developing technologies to reduce fuel consumption, greenhouse gases, polluting emissions and noise and pioneered new technologies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrocarbons and visible smoke.