A project to turn landfill waste into sustainable jet fuel has received a major boost today, securing almost £5m of funding from the government and industry backers.
The Department for Transport has committed £434,000 to fund the next stage of the project, which will involve engineering and site studies to scope potential for a waste-based jet fuel plant in the UK.
The plant would take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of post-recycled waste – otherwise destined for landfill – and convert it to fuel for aeroplanes.
The project is being led by biofuels firm Velocys, which has committed £1.5m to the next phase of development.
The scheme has also secured a further £3m from industry partners, including Shell and British Airways. The airline plans to use the waste-based fuel to help cut its greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft by up to 70 per cent, and particulate matter emissions by up to 90 per cent.
“We are very pleased that the government has recognised the importance of alternative fuels for aviation and has supported our joint project with Velocys which will help to reduce carbon emissions and create UK jobs and growth,” said Alex Cruz, CEO of British Airways.
The funding for the Velocys project is part of £22m alternative fuels fund from the government, to advance development of a new breed of sustainable fuels for aviation and freight transport. Some £2m was awarded to firms today for further research and scoping work, and recipients of this will be invited to bid for a share of £20m for construction work.
As of April 2018 renewable jet fuel also qualifies for credits under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) – a shift that has further boosted the long term commercial viability of a waste jet fuel plant in the UK, Velocys said.
Waste-based jet fuel is widely regarded as a crucial tool for helping to decarbonise the aviation sector. But it is still an expensive alternative to traditional fuels, restricting its use primarily to test flights.
“The waste-to-jet fuel project has the potential to help transform the aviation industry by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the air quality around our country’s airports,” Grayling said in a statement on today’s funding news.
“That is why we are providing support to this important technology as part of our £22m of funding for alternative fuels, which will pave the way for clean growth in the UK.”
But pressure is set to intensify on the government to give the industry more of a helping hand, if plans for a third runway at Heathrow go ahead.
Last week the government’s climate watchdog, the Committee on Climate Change, wrote to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling reminding him the UK’s current legally binding pledge to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 means aviation emissions must be at 2005 levels by 2050.
This “relatively generous” aviation budget represents a doubling of 1990 emissions, but will still require the widespread use of sustainable biofuels by the airline industry and moves by other sectors of the economy to cut their emissions to almost zero, if UK climate targets are to be met the CCC said.
An expansion of airport capacity at Heathrow is likely to require further emissions cuts across aviation and the wider economy, the CCC warned.
The hopes are the latest funding boost for jet biofuels will help revive a fledgling sector that has faced a series of setbacks in recent years.
Most notably, BA previously shelved a £340m green fuels project, citing a lack of support from government.
Solena, the company meant to be producing jet fuel from London waste for BA, goes bankrupt
In February 2010 it was announced that British Airways had teamed up with American bioenergy company Solena Group to establish “Europe’s first” sustainable jet fuel plant, which was set to turn London’d domestic waste into aviation fuel. The plan was for BA to provide construction capital for a massive plant somewhere in East London. BA committed to purchasing all the jet fuel produced by the plant, around 16 million gallons a year, for the next 11 years at market competitive prices. BA had hoped that this 2% contribution to its fuel consumption – the equivalent to all its fuel use at London City airport – would give it green credibility, and it would claim it cut its carbon emissions. The timescale for the plant to be built kept slipping. Nothing has been heard of it for a long time. Now it has been announced that Solena has gone into bankruptcy in the USA. It was never clear why, if genuinely low carbon fuels could be produced from London’s waste, why these should not be used for essential vehicles in London – and why they would instead become a PR exercise for an airline. British Airways and the company Velocys are listed as creditors of Solena.
A site for the project, by BA and Solena, to convert landfill waste into jet fuel has finally been announced, after long delays. The site will be in the Thames Enterprise Park, a regeneration project just east of London on the Thames estuary (a few miles west of Canvey Island). The site includes the redundant former Coryton Oil Refinery. Work on building the GreenSky facility is expected to start in 2015 and be completed in 2017. BA is providing construction capital and has committed to purchasing all the jet fuel produced by the plant, around 16 million gallons a year, for the next 11 years at market competitive prices. BA is hoping that this 2% contribution to its fuel consumption will give it green credibility, and it will claim it cuts its carbon emissions. In reality, if liquid fuels can be made from urban waste, there is no reason why aviation needs to be the user of them – especially as aviation intends to greatly increase its total fuel consumption in coming decades. Liquid fuels that can genuinely be considered “sustainable” could be used by any other consumer. If aviation appropriates these “sustainable” fuels, and uses increasing amounts of fuel, the net effect is that other users have to use high carbon fuels. No net benefit. Other than in (flimsy) green PR terms for BA.
British Airways + Solena plant to make jet fuel from London’s rubbish – announcement soon?
GreenAir online gives an update on the anticipated biofuel plant (costing around $500 million) to be built in east London, to produce diesel and jet fuel. GreenAir says that according to British Airways’ a 20-acre (8ha) site has been selected for its GreenSky project with Solena and an announcement is expected within weeks. Getting the required planning permission had proved “extremely challenging.” GreenSky will convert around 600,000 tonnes of London municipal waste into 50,000 tonnes of biojet and 50,000 tonnes of biodiesel annually, and will – they hope – meet BA’s total fuel needs at London City Airport. BA hope they can claim annual carbon savings of up to 145,000 tonnes of CO2. “It’s very much a demonstration plant for us. If we can prove this works commercially then we will build a number of them in the UK – potentially up to six – at this scale or even bigger.” “The economics is driven by a current UK landfill tax of about £80 per tonne, so the scheme hopes to get the rubbish cheaply – saving councils the landfill tax. Under its 10-year contract with Solena, BA will purchase all the fuel produced by the plant. They hope to start building in early 2015 and start producing fuel in 2017.