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LanzaTech progresses with sustainable aviation fuel scale-up in US and Japan

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Carbon recycling company LanzaTech is continuing to progress in scaling up its alcohol to jet (ATJ) platform, which converts ethanol to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Commercialisation of the process has been ongoing for numerous years, beginning with the partnership between LanzaTech and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The laboratory developed a unique catalytic process to upgrade ethanol to alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK), which LanzaTech then scaled up to pilot scale.

Following scale-up and a number of other critical steps – including ethanol being added as an approved feedstock in ASTM D7566 Annex A5, the Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons for ATJ-SPK, and the first commercial flight with Virgin Atlantic – SAF made under the partnership is now ready for commercialisation.

The DOE is currently negotiating with LanzaTech for a $14 million (€12.7 million) in a demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery at LanzaTech’s Freedom Pines site in Georgia, US.

Commenting on the negotiations, Michael Berube, deputy assistant secretary for transportation at the DOE, said: “LanzaTech still has some remaining work to do under the initial award, and we have some negotiations to complete. But we’re very excited about the prospects of this project and what it could mean for demonstrating the viability of drop-in biofuels in the United States.”

LanzaTech’s process can use any source of sustainable ethanol for jet fuel production, including ethanol made from recycled pollution. To date, the company’s first commercial plant in China has produced over 10 million gallons of ethanol from recycled steel mill emissions.

Taking flight in Japan

Meanwhile, Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) signed an offtake agreement with LanzaTech earlier this year for the purchase of SAF. In October, ANA, in partnership with Mitsui & Co., conducted a Boeing 777-300ER delivery flight using SAF made from recycled carbon.

“Sustainable aviation fuel reduces carbon emissions by up to 80% and is a key element of the industry’s climate action strategy,” said Sheila Remes, vice-president of strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “ANA’s flight demonstrated once again that sustainable fuel blends perfectly with conventional fuel without the need for any changes to the airplane, engines or airport fuelling infrastructure.”

“We are very excited to continue our efforts to establish higher standards for eco-friendly travel alongside NEDO, Mitsui & Co. and JXTG,” added Yutaka Ito, executive vice-president of ANA. “This project closely aligns with our vision of a world where companies proactively respond to calls for environmentally-friendly leadership and this is just one of many steps ANA is taking to meet the ambitious sustainable development goals that we have set.”

LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren concluded: “Commercial volumes of sustainable aviation fuel are desperately needed. The aviation sector is working hard to decarbonise and there are more options on the table than ever before. We are excited to play our part by accelerating scaling ATJ!”

Potential in the UK?

LanzaTech’s carbon capture platform for the production of SAF is now ready for scale-up in the US and Japan. In the UK, the company has been shortlisted as an applicant for a grant from the UK Department for Transport (DfT) through the Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition.

The grant would support deployment of the technology in the UK; LanzaTech has been working closely with the DfT in its assessment of the technology and its sustainability profile.