British Airways and Shell back plans for UK sustainable jet fuel plant

British Airways and Shell have provided funding totalling £2.8m to support the development of a UK-based facility that could produce 20 million gallons of sustainable jet fuel annually.

The jet fuel will be made from household waste and the gases it emits

The jet fuel will be made from household waste and the gases it emits

The two companies are supporting renewable fuel developer Velocys with funding in order to take the next step for a planned facility in Immingham, Lincolnshire. Velocys hopes to have the facility operational in the 2020s in order to produce 20 million gallons of alternative and sustainable jet fuel annually.

Velocys’ chief executive Henrik Wareborn said: “I am delighted with the level of support Velocys has received from existing and new institutional investors. This complements the commitments by Shell and British Airways to co-fund the remaining pre-FEED project work to bring the Altalto Immingham biorefinery project to the same state of pre-FEED completion as our Bayou Fuels project in Mississippi.

“As a result we can provide strategic partners with two truly sustainable fuel projects, and a solution that can be deployed widely to decarbonise aviation and heavy goods transport.”

The move forms part of British Airways’s £6.5bn investment in modernising its fleet and practices in order to drive sustainability. The company has formed a strategic partnership with Velocys which has been running for multiple years. Under the partnership, the companies will work to co-create a jet fuel from household waste and the gases it emits.

British Airways is taking a multi-pronged approach to reducing aircraft emissions, with sustainable fuel acting as a key solution. The company’s chief executive recently told edie that there would be no “silver bullet” to decarbonise the sector, meaning companies had to combine an array of solutions.

Innovative aviation

Aviation currently accounts for 2% of all global carbon emissions, and 12% of the transport sector's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the need to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation is clear, with recent research revealing that flights will generate around 43 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050 – more than 4% of the world’s entire remaining carbon budget.

Innovation is starting to disrupt the sector, however. A Swedish startup unveiled what it claims was the world's first carbon-negative fuel at the COP24 climate summit in Poland last year. Similarly, Virgin Atlantic recently showcased an innovative jet fuel made from recycled industrial waste gases, using the low-carbon alternative to partially power a commercial flight from London to Orlando, Florida.

Developed as part of a partnership with LanzaTech – a firm which recycles industrial waste gases and other waste streams into ethanol-based aviation fuel – Virgin Atlantic claims that the fuel generates up to 70% fewer emissions than regular fossil jet fuel.

LanzaTech claims that the gas-capturing technology could be scaled up and retrofitted at 65% of the world’s steel mills, giving it the potential to meet 20% of the global demand for aviation fuel.

Matt Mace



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