Biotechnology company LanzaTech UK, and cleantech company Carbon Engineering (CE), have partnered on a first-of-a-kind project to create sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) out of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Project AtmosFUEL will investigate the feasibility of a large-scale, commercial air-to-jet facility in the UK that will produce more than 100 million litres of SAF each year.
The proposed facility is targeted to be operational by the end of the decade and will demonstrate how this clean infrastructure can be rolled out across the UK and elsewhere to deliver significant aviation emission reductions, while creating thousands of jobs and cascading economic benefits. The project is one of eight projects shortlisted for the UK Department for Transport’s Green Fuels Green Skies Competition that will share £15 million in government funding to support plant development.
The project team, consisting of LanzaTech, CE, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, will examine how two proven technologies can be integrated to recycle atmospheric CO2 into ultra-low carbon jet fuel. CE’s Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology will capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere so it can be fed into LanzaTech’s Gas Fermentation process to produce low carbon ethanol. The ethanol will then be converted into SAF using the LanzaJetTM Alcohol-To-Jet technology, developed by LanzaTech and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The fuel will undergo certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Materials, globally recognised as the most robust approach to sustainability for the bio-based and circular economy. By recycling existing atmospheric CO2, the SAF produced will offer a more than 90 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. Due to an unlimited feedstock – atmospheric CO2 – this solution can be scaled up to deliver large-scale quantities of SAF to help meet the UK’s 10% SAF by 2030 and up to 75% SAF by 2050 proposals.
The technologies enabling Project AtmosFUEL are proven climate solutions that are being deployed globally. CE is working with 1PointFive, which in 2022 plans to begin construction in the US of the world’s largest DAC plant capable of capturing one million tonnes of CO2 each year, and in the UK, in partnership with Storegga, engineering has begun on a facility that will remove between 500,000 and one million tonnes of atmospheric CO2 each year. LanzaTech’s first commercial gas fermentation plant has produced over 20 million gallons of ethanol, and the company has been working with the UK government and several industrial partners to build the world’s first commercial-scale, waste-ethanol-based Alcohol-to-Jet production facility in South Wales.
Project AtmosFUEL marks the first integration of these critical climate technologies, emphasising the need for cross-industry collaboration and a diversity of solutions in global decarbonisation efforts.
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, LanzaTech said, “Using Direct Air Capture to make SAF presents an opportunity for unprecedented scale, a key factor when the greatest challenge we face as an industry is getting the volumes of fuel we need into planes as soon as possible. We applaud the UK Government’s continued leadership role in creating opportunities for bringing recycled carbon into the supply chain to enable achieving Net Zero.”
Amy Ruddock, VP Europe, CE said, “Aviation is going to be one of the most difficult industries to decarbonise, and sustainable fuel solutions are poised to play a key role in supporting the industry’s energy transition. We’re pleased to see the UK Government investing in critical SAF solutions and are grateful for this funding support. These types of first-of-a-kind facilities will position the UK as a world leader in advanced low carbon jet fuel breakthroughs and will deliver significant emissions reductions and rippling economic benefits.”
Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic commented, “We are delighted that the atmosFUEL project has been recognised by the GFGS programme and very much look forward to working with our sustainable aviation fuels partners LanzaTech and Carbon Engineering on this programme. The involvement of two leading UK airlines as partners in this project reflects how important it is to support such innovation and the role airlines play in developing a UK-based sustainable aviation fuels production capability. We very much look forward to working with our partners over the coming months.”
Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and CEO, said: “We’re determined to transform the sustainability of our industry and this potential funding from the Government’s Green Fuels, Green Skies competition is critical in helping us to show the feasibility of building sustainable aviation fuel plants. These plants would be a game-changer for our industry, not only delivering sustainable aviation fuel, but also creating many hundreds of highly skilled jobs while increasing economic growth around the UK. Our parent company, IAG, was the first European airline group to commit to powering 10 per cent of flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030 – purchasing one million tonnes of SAF each year, equivalent to taking a million cars off Europe’s roads every year. We look forward to pushing forward with this project, which is one of many we’re working on as we head towards our target to decarbonise and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
UK Government press release: Green Fuels, Green Skies (GFGS) competition: shortlisted proposals
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