Partnership aims to bring waste-to-jet fuel plants to UK

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Renewable fuels company Velocys has entered into a partnership to prepare the business case for a commercial scale waste-to-renewable-jet fuel plant in the UK.

Velocys will lead the initial feasibility stage of the project, with funding support from all members of the partnership. Subject to successful completion of the feasibility stage and all the required development stages, the aim is to achieve a final investment decision in 2019.

As well as Velocys, the partnership includes British Airways, Britain’s largest international airline; Suez, an expert in recycling and waste management; and Norma, an Ervington Investments affiliate and the largest investor in Velocys.

The prospective plant would take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of post recycled waste destined for landfill or incineration, and process it into clean-burning, sustainable aviation fuel. It is expected that the jet fuel produced at the facility would deliver over 60% greenhouse gas reduction and 90% reduction in particulate matter emissions compared with conventional jet fuel.

Replacing conventional jet fuel with the renewable alternative would contribute to both carbon emissions reduction and local air quality improvements around major airports, Velocys claims in a statement.

“Our strategy remains highly focused on exploiting the large US market for cellulosic renewable fuels. Alongside the excellent progress we are making there, we believe that the recently announced RTFO (Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation) changes will allow the UK to become a world leader in sustainable jet fuel,” said David Pummell, CEO of Velocys.

“We are very pleased to be working with world class partners to help execute the vision of a repeatable series of plants, offering a commercially attractive route to a highly desirable product for an industry that now demands significant greenhouse gas reduction solutions.  This opportunity leverages further our technology, integrated plant design and skills base, and is consistent with our renewable fuels strategy of delivering integrated plant solutions, in collaboration with partners, to fulfil a real market need.”

According to a statement from British Airways, the planned plant will produce enough fuels to power all of its 787 Dreamliner operated flights from London to San Jose California and New Orleans, Louisiana, for a whole year.

In addition to helping the aviation industry reduce its carbon emissions, the initiative will also reduce the amount of landfill going to waste in the UK, which currently stands at 15 million tonnes a year.

Willie Walsh, IAG (International Airlines Group) chief executive, said: “Sustainable fuels will play an increasingly critical role in global aviation, and we are preparing for that future.

“Turning household waste into jet fuel is an amazing innovation that produces clean fuel while reducing landfill.

“From developing innovative operating techniques, to investing in the most modern and efficient aircraft, we have a strong track record in researching, identifying and implementing ways to reduce emissions.

“This partnership continues this tradition, and shows how we are investing in our long-term future – and that of our customers.”