Shell pulls out of UK joint venture with BA and Velocys to produce “low carbon” jetfuel

Shell has pulled out of the joint Altalto venture with British Airways and Velocys to build a plant in Immingham, Humberside to make “sustainable” jet fuels from non-recyclable household waste.  There has been a lot of hype about novel fuels for aviation, and how they will help reduce the CO2 emissions from flights slightly – even while the sector stays the same size or grows.  Shell will instead join a more lucrative fuels project in Canada, which plans to produce fuel more efficiently (using a better source of waste – as they include wood “waste”).  The Altalto projects hopes to be producing jet fuel within 5 years. The existence of the Humberside plant enabled Boris to claim Britain would be in the forefront of low carbon fuels etc (Britain always has to be on top …) Producing standard, high quality jet fuel from highly variable domestic waste is difficult. Other projects have not been a success. In 2017 the fuel project in Essex by Solena, to produce fuel for British Airways, was scrapped as Solena went bankrupt (presumably before producing any fuel). While the Canadian scheme plans to use over 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable and wood waste annually to produce nearly 125m litres of fuel, the UK Altalto project would use 500,000 tonnes of waste to make 60m litres.


Shell pulls out of joint venture to build UK sustainable jet fuels plant

Withdrawal a blow to Boris Johnson’s desire for UK to achieve first zero-emission long-haul flight

 and   (The Guardian)

Shell has pulled out of a joint venture with British Airways and Velocys to build a flagship sustainable jet fuels plant in the UK – in a blow to Boris Johnson’s claims that Britain could deliver the world’s first zero-emission long-haul flight.

The oil firm was named last year as one of the top companies set to “turbocharge government plans” for sustainable aviation fuels, the centrepiece of the so-called “jet zero” plan to decarbonise flights.

Shell said it would leave the Altalto project, to be built in Immingham, Humberside, days after the company agreed to join a project in Canada which plans to produce more than double the green fuel from less than half the waste.

Shell’s departure was by mutual consent, and the project would continue “according to its existing development plan”, the three parties behind the project said. Immingham could begin supplying its first aviation fuel from non-recyclable household waste within five years.

But Shell’s decision to exit the UK’s burgeoning green fuels industry is likely to compound scepticism over Johnson’s promise that Britain would be in the “vanguard of green innovation” by pioneering zero-emission transatlantic flight.

The departure comes after a number of false starts for BA’s plans for UK production of sustainable fuels. The airline shelved a proposed waste-to-fuel factory in Thurrock, Essex, which was due to open in 2017, blaming a lack of government support.

Shell’s head of new fuels, Matthew Tipper, said the oil company was “pursuing multiple opportunities across our global portfolio”.

“On this occasion, we have decided to focus our resources on other lower-carbon fuels opportunities which leverage our own technology. We will continue to work with the aviation industry and the UK government, as part of the jet zero council, to help decarbonise UK aviation,” he said.

Shell announced plans earlier this month to take a 40% interest in the Varennes Carbon Recycling project, the first waste-to-low-carbon-fuels plant in Quebec, which will use Montreal-based clean-tech company Enerkem’s proprietary technology.

The pair plan to treat more than 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable and wood waste [fine if it is genuinely waste, but not fine if it involves cutting down whole trees – “roundwood” – as this is more lucrative and produces more energy than branches, twigs etc]  annually to produce nearly 125m litres of low carbon fuels to help cut emissions from Canada’s transport industries. The UK’s Immingham Altalto project will use 500,000 tonnes of waste to make less than half the fuel, or 60m litres a year.

Velocys and BA said they had been in talks for several months with other potential sources of finance for the project, which was well placed to achieve significant government funding.

BA’s parent company, IAG, was the first airline group to pledge that its operations would become net zero by 2050, albeit largely through offsetting. BA’s chief executive, Sean Doyle, said: “Sustainable aviation fuel is vital to the decarbonisation of aviation and to helping us achieve our net zero target. We are excited to continue to work with Velocys, with the support of government and other private-sector partners.”

Velocys said it was looking forward to moving to the next stage of development this year. The chief executive, Henrik Wareborn, said: “Altalto Immingham is ready to take advantage of the strong push from both government and industry for the decarbonisation of aviation, especially using waste feedstocks.”

While manufacturers have said that hybrid-electric, or even hydrogen, short-haul commercial passenger jets could be feasible by 2035, long-haul net zero flights, if possible, are assumed to depend on sustainable jet fuels.



See earlier:


Natural England objects to proposed jet fuel from waste plant, backed by BA, Shell and Velocys

BA has been trying to get some jet fuel made from domestic waste that would otherwise go to landfill, so it can claim it is using “low carbon” fuels. There were plans for a plant in east London, by Solena, back in 2014 but that never got off the ground; Solena went bust in October 2015. Now BA and Shell and Velocys are hoping for a plant on an 80-acre site on Humberside, to convert waste that would go to landfill, into jet fuel. However, Natural England are worried it could harm local wildlife and have filed an objection. Velocys says the plant would turn household waste into 60 million litres of “low-carbon” jet fuel every year. The project is backed by £4.5m of investment from Shell and British Airways, alongside a £434,000 grant from the Department of Transport. In a letter dated 20 February 2020 Natural England said it objects to the development because trucks ferrying waste to the site could increase nitrogen oxide levels – which can cause serious health impacts for humans and wildlife. It is also concerned construction and waste from the site could disturb nearby habitats for rare birds.  It is now for North East Lincolnshire Council to decide whether to approve the scheme.

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Yet another “first” household & commercial waste to aviation fuel plant planning application – Velocys, Shell, BA

Altalto, a collaboration between Velocys, British Airways and Shell, has submitted a planning application for a plant that turns waste into so-called “sustainable” aviation fuel. The proposed plant near Grimsby would take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household and commercial solid waste destined for landfill or incineration. That would be converted into fuel, to be used by the aviation industry (some could be used for road vehicle fuels…). The scheme is claiming it would “reduce reduce net greenhouse gases by 70% compared to the fossil fuel equivalent.”  The company says the fuel also improves air quality, with up to 90% reduction in particulate matter from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100% reduction in sulphur oxides – but gives no explanation how. It also claims the process produces less air pollution that if the waste was incinerated or landfilled (but gives on details).  Usual blurb from British Airways (desperate to try to make out that aviation will emit less CO2 in future, while continuing to grow) about “Sustainable fuels can be a game-changer for aviation…”  blah blah… BA had proposed a similar plant in Essex which was cancelled due to lack of funding in 2016.

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KLM and SkyNRG to open factory to produce “low carbon” jet fuel, mainly from “wastes”

Airlines are desperate to find some form of fuel that they can claim is “low carbon” and that does not have obviously negative environmental and social impacts. Finding these miracle fuels is the only way the industry could continue its rapid growth in fuel burn, for decades to come – in the face of the global climate emergency. Dutch airline KLM is keen to get “sustainable” aviation fuel (SAF), working with SkyNRG. They are hoping to use “regional waste and residue streams such as used cooking oil, coming predominantly from regional industries” as feedstock. A plant is being built, to be opened in 2022, making this fuel.  KLM says:  “From 2022, the plant will annually produce 100,000 tonnes of SAF …. It will mean a CO2 reduction of 270,000 tonnes a year for the aviation industry.”  That number all depends on how it is measured – they are regarding this fuel as causing the emission of at least 85% less CO2 than conventional kerosene. (Is that realistic?) KLM says: “There will be absolutely no use of food crops, such as soya oil and palm oil (or by-products such as PFAD and POME), for production.” Biofuelwatch has calculated that using all tallow worldwide for biofuels could only supply 1.7% of global aviation fuel burned in 2016. Converting all Used Cooking Oil that can be realistically collected in the EU and USA would meet just 0.16% of US aviation fuel and 0,26% of EU aviation fuel use respectively.

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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.