October 11, 2011—Virgin Atlantic Airways announced that within three years it will power commercial flights with a low-carbon aviation fuel made from recycled waste gas. Partnering company LanzaTech will produce the fuel by capturing waste gases from industrial steel production and converting it into jet fuel through a fermentation technology developed by Swedish Biofuels.
Virgin Atlantic says the resulting fuel will have half the carbon footprint of standard jet fuel. Furthermore, the waste gases would otherwise be burned off at the point of production, releasing carbon dioxide, if not converted into jet fuel.
Currently the technology is being piloted in New Zealand. However, Virgin Atlantic intends to use the fuel on flights from Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow to take advantage of production facilities planned in China and India. A demonstration facility will be commissioned in Shanghai this year, and the first commercial operation is expected to be in place in China by 2014.
If implementation is successful, a wider rollout could include operations in the UK and the rest of the world, the airline says.
LanzaTech estimates that its process can apply to 65 percent of the world’s steel mills, which would overcome the complex land use issues associated with some earlier generation biofuels.
LanzaTech also believes the conversion process can be applied to metals processing and chemical industries, growing its potential considerably further.
“With oil running out, it is important that new fuel solutions are sustainable, and with the steel industry alone able to deliver over 15 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, the potential is very exciting,” says Virgin Atlantic President Richard Branson. “This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel.”
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.
Virgin Atlantic says the new fuel will take the airline well beyond its pledge of a 30% carbon reduction per passenger-kilometer by 2020.
Article written by Bart King for Sustainable Life Media