Virgin Atlantic today announced the development of a world-first low carbon aviation fuel with just half the carbon footprint of the standard fossil fuel alternative.
The ground breaking partnership with LanzaTech represents a breakthrough in aviation fuel technology that will see waste gases from industrial steel production being captured, fermented and chemically converted using Swedish Biofuels technology for use as a jet fuel. The revolutionary fuel production process recycles waste gases that would otherwise be burnt into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Within three years Virgin Atlantic plans flights with the new fuel on its routes from Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow as LanzaTech and partners develop facilities in China and India. The technology is currently being piloted in New Zealand, a larger demonstration facility will be commissioned in Shanghai this year, and the first commercial operation will be in place in China by 2014. Following successful implementation, a wider roll-out could include operations in the UK and the rest of the world.
LanzaTech estimates that its process can apply to 65 % of the worlds steel mills, allowing the fuel to be rolled out for worldwide commercial use. The energy company believes that this process can also apply to metals processing and chemical industries, growing its potential considerably further.
Virgin Atlantic will be the first airline to use this fuel and will work with LanzaTech, Boeing and Swedish Biofuels towards achieving the technical approval required for using new fuel types in commercial aircraft. A demo flight with the new fuel is planned in 12-18 months.
Dr Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive of LanzaTech, said: "This technology will enable airlines to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by reusing gases that would otherwise have been emitted directly into the atmosphere. It promotes sustainable industrial growth, as the process enables manufacturing plants to recycle their waste carbon emissions.
"While there is still work to be done and logistical hurdles to cross, we have excellent partners in Virgin Atlantic, Swedish Biofuels and Boeing and we are confident that we will have a facility with the capacity to produce fuel for commercial use by 2014."
This next generation technology overcomes the complex land use issues associated with some earlier generation biofuels and detailed analysis suggests the fuel will produce around a 50% saving in lifecycle carbon emissions. The Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), the leading international body to ensure the sustainability of biofuels production, will advise the team to ensure the fuel produced meets key environmental, social and economic criteria.
Virgin Atlantic believes that this development will take the airline well beyond its pledge of a 30% carbon reduction per passenger km by 2020. The investment in renewable fuels is part of our wider programme to reduce carbon through measures such as using new, more fuel-efficient aircraft and supporting a global carbon cap and trade scheme, through our involvement in Aviation Global Deal group.
Bill Glover, Boeing Vice President of Environmental Strategy and Aviation Policy, said: "Boeing is proud to support this important partnership between Virgin Atlantic, LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels. Sustainable aviation biofuel based upon conversion of alcohol to jet fuel is the next type of biofuel which will be under consideration for approval for use in commercial aviation. Boeing will be playing a key role in supporting the approval process drawing upon our extensive experience in sustainable biofuel development."
Peter Ryus, Manager of Certification and Implementation at the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels, said: "We are happy to be selected as the credible bar for this new fuel to meet. The team has demonstrated their commitment to ensuring sustainability criteria are met as the technology is developed, and we are happy to guide this process."
Dr Ausilio Bauen, Head of Bioenergy at Imperial College London, added: "The recycling of waste gases that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere to produce transport fuels, in a process such as the Lanzatech one, provides an excellent opportunity to reduce emissions associated with the use of petroleum fuels in transport."
Go to Virgin Atlantic'sChange Is In The Air websiteto find out more.