Rolls-Royce Holdings plc (RR) is a UK-based engineering company that specialises in power and propulsion systems for aviation and other industries. On 11 May 2022, the company announced the approval of its mtu diesel engines for operation with sustainable fuels by its Power Systems business unit (Power Systems). Through its comprehensive decarbonisation strategy, Rolls-Royce is continuing to take steps like this towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The UK Sets a New Ambitious Climate Change Target
Since the historic Paris Agreement, countries and their respective governments from across the globe have devised and submitted nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to tackle climate change. These contributions outline key policies and targets for reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to below 1.5 oC.
The Climate Change Act was passed in November 2008 to formalise the UK’s strategy to combat climate change. Under the act, the UK government is legally bound to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels (net-zero) by 2050. This ‘Net Zero’ goal was amended and legislated in 2019 following advice from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
On Tuesday 20th April 2021, the UK government announced its plans to set the world’s most ambitious climate change target to reduce emissions by 78% of 1990 levels by 2035. This new target built upon the UK government’s previous “68% by 2030” goal and is being put forward following the advice of the CCC.
The UK’s climate change reduction targets
- 68% of 1990 levels by 2030
- 78% of 1990 levels by 2035
- 100% of 1990 levels (net-zero) by 2050
The CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget or Carbon Budget 6 (CB6) restricts greenhouse gas emissions that the UK can emit within five years between 2033 and 2037. The new carbon budget will include the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions. The new “78% by 2035” became enshrined in law at the end of June 2021.
On 31 March 2022, the UK government announced that 30 of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies had signed up to the United Nations (UN) Race to Zero campaign. Some of the companies that enrolled include Aviva, Barretts, Legal and General, AstraZeneca, Vodafone, Severn Trent, and Rolls-Royce.
How is Rolls Royce Contributing to Net Zero?
As a part of Rolls-Royce company-wide and nationwide sustainable commitments, the company has established a circular economy approach to its manufacturing process. This means that up to 95% of their jet engines can now be recycled.
Now, Rolls-Royce has ticked another sustainability goal from its list by establishing the use of EN15940-certified synthetic diesel fuels in its Series 4000 and Series 1600 diesel engines for power generation applications. After successful test bench and field testing, RR’s mtu gensets can now use a range of sustainable fuels: Biomass to Liquid (BtL), Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), Gas to Liquid (GtL), and Power to Liquid (PtL) fuels such as e-diesel.
In a recent news release, the President of the Stationary Power Solutions business unit at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, Tobias Ostermaier, commented, “The results from pilot customers show a significant reduction in greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions by using HVO instead of fossil diesel in their gensets.”
Testing with Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) was shown to improve the ability of the engine to accept load and maintain engine speed (load acceptance) and decreased fuel consumption. Rolls-Royce highlights that HVO only generates as many greenhouse gas emissions as that which are absorbed by the plants that make up the fuel during growth.
Another attractive aspect of HVO is that it can be used as a drop-in fuel. It doesn’t need to be modified to be incorporated into existing diesel plant infrastructure, hardware, or software. According to Rolls-Royce, HVO has the potential to provide cleaner combustion with a reduction in particulate emissions of up to 80%, nitrogen oxide emissions by an average of 8% and, dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 90% compared to traditional diesel.
The approval of HVO fuel use in Rolls-Royce’s mtu engines represents one milestone achieved among other planned milestones within Rolls-Royce Power Systems’ road map for climate neutrality: Net Zero@Power Systems.
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