Europe’s first waste to jet fuel plant submits planning application

Velocys subsidiary Altalto Immingham, a collaboration with British Airways and Shell, has submitted a planning application to develop the first commercial scale household and commercial solid waste to sustainable fuels plant in Europe.

The site, which is located near Immingham in North East Lincolnshire, UK, will be home to a plant able to convert half a million tonnes per year of non-recyclable waste otherwise destined for landfill or incineration into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and road fuel.

The facility will deploy technology known as Fischer-Tropsch that enables a net 70% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per tonne of SAF, compared with conventional jet fuel. Reductions achieved in GHG emissions from the plant’s annual output are equivalent to around 40,000 standard petrol cars.

The development at the Immingham site is expected to bring hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, as well as create hundreds of jobs during the construction phase and around 130 permanent jobs once the facility begins operations.

The domestic production of fuel will also improve the UK’s fuel supply; the country currently imports more than 70% of its jet fuel from abroad.

Net zero carbon goal

“Velocys has a solution to decarbonise aviation fuel by converting an unwanted feedstock – household and commercial solid waste – to create a highly valuable product: sustainable transport fuels,” commented Henrik Wareborn, CEO of Velocys.

“This will cut greenhouse gas emission from aviation, as well as improving air quality and helping to tackle our waste problem. This is a vital step towards the ultimate goal of living in a net zero carbon world by the middle of the century.”

Altalto is being supported in the project development by partners and co-investors British Airways and Shell. British Airways will purchase jet fuel produced at the plant for use in its aircraft, which is a key step in the reduction of the airline’s carbon emissions. Shell will purchase both jet fuel and road fuel from the project, which may then be blended and sold to its customers, helping to reduce their carbon footprint. The energy major will also offer technical expertise, based on its experience of gasification and Fischer-Tropsch conversion technology.

‘Game changer for aviation’

Commenting on the news, Alex Cruz, chairman and CEO of British Airways, said: “The submission of the planning application marks a major milestone in this project and we are delighted with the progress being made. Sustainable fuels can be a game changer for aviation which will help power our aircraft for years to come.

“This development is an important step in the reduction of our carbon emissions and meeting the industry targets of carbon neutral growth from 2020, and a 50% [reduction in carbon dioxide emissions] by 2050 from 2005 levels. It brings the UK another step closer to becoming a global leader in sustainable aviation fuels.”

Jonathon Counsell, head of sustainability at British Airways parent company International Airlines Group, also welcomed the news and called on the UK Government to continue to support the deployment of SAF in the UK’s aviation industry. “This is a fantastic step forward for the project,” Counsell said. “We strongly welcomed the inclusion of sustainable aviation fuels into the renewable transport fuels policy framework and call on government to continue to provide support given the significant near-term opportunities offered by these fuels.

“Specifically, we strongly believe a dedicated Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (OSAF) will provide the essential cross-government coordination necessary to progress the development and commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuel and would welcome government support in setting this up at the earliest opportunity.”

Fischer-Tropsch technology

Velocys, which is leading the development of the Altalto Immingham project, will supply the central processing unit to the facility: microchannel Fischer-Tropsch reactors with the proprietary Velocys Actocat catalyst. This technology converts a gas mixture of carbon and hydrogen into the liquid hydrocarbons required to produce sustainable fuels.

Subject to planning and funding decisions, construction at the Immingham site is slated for 2021, with commercial production of SAF to begin in 2024.

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