How Qatar Airways saves water when cleaning engines


When it comes to environmental sustainability, emissions and CO2 levels often receive the most attention. However, water scarcity will be a serious problem in the future – not just in dry regions. By 2050, up to 36% of the world’s cities will suffer from water scarcity. These include cities such as New York, London, Singapore, Beijing and Istanbul.

The World Health Organization predicts that as early as 2025, more than half of the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas. However, some regions and countries have long lived with limited access to freshwater, and some of them are leading the way in water-saving technologies.

Simple video of the day

Water saving up to 40%

Along with General Electric, Gulf carrier Qatar Airways is now applying a technology called the GE 360 foam cleaning system to clean its aircraft engines. This approach can reduce process water consumption by up to 40%. Not only that, but it enables airlines to reduce fuel costs, carbon footprint, and even extend wing life.

As described in the video above, the method proved to be particularly beneficial for engines flying in dusty environments. In the climate and environment of much of the Middle East, fan blades and other internal components accumulate large amounts of dust particles, which can negatively impact engine performance.

Over 1000 washes completed since 2017

GE first began testing the method in 2017 on engines in the field or in customer service. The programme has reached a major milestone by completing its 1,000th engine wash ahead of the 2021 Dubai Airshow. It is an alternative to the traditional water wash method, which involves injecting a specially formulated proprietary solution to remove dirt particles from the engine.

Qatar Airways' first-ever 777 Getty

For the 777, GE Foam Cleaner saves 35,000 gallons of fuel per year over 700 cycles.Photo: Getty Images

According to GE, the technology could save GEnx-powered Boeing 787s about 15,900 gallons of fuel and 168 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually compared to washing jet engines with water. For a GE90-powered Boeing 777, that translates to 35,500 gallons of fuel and 377 tons of CO2 emissions. These estimates are based on 650 and 700 cycles per year, respectively, operating in the Middle East, with the 787 lasting 6 hours and the Triple Seven lasting 6 and a half hours.

To date, seven airline customers have licensed the technology to use GE 360 Foam Cleaner on their aircraft. These include Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian and Saudia.

Engines are scheduled for regular cleaning to ensure they perform at their best.Photo: Getty Images

How to clean an engine with water

To wash the engine with water, engineers first turned on the engine, let the water escape and started a slow RPM cycle. They then pump fresh water into a turbine, which circulates through it like a washing machine. Once the water flowing out is clear, the engine is considered clean.

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