World First Low Carbon Fuel To Be Developed for Virgin Atlantic

SOUTH NORWALK, Conn., Oct. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Virgin Atlantic Airways today announced the development of a world-first low carbon aviation fuel with just half the carbon footprint of the standard fossil fuel alternative.  

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101001/NY74547LOGO)

The ground breaking partnership with LanzaTech represents a breakthrough in aviation fuel technology that will see waste gases from industrial steel production being captured, fermented and chemically converted using Swedish Biofuels technology for use as a jet fuel. The revolutionary fuel production process recycles waste gases that would otherwise be burnt into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Within two to three years Virgin Atlantic will plan flights with the new fuel on its routes from Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow as LanzaTech and partners develop facilities in China and India.  The technology is currently being piloted in New Zealand, a larger demonstration facility will be commissioned in Shanghai this year, and the first commercial operation will be in place in China by 2014.  Following successful implementation, a wider roll-out could include operations in the UK and the rest of the world.

LanzaTech estimates that its process can apply to 65 % of the world's steel mills, allowing the fuel to be rolled out for worldwide commercial use. The energy company believes that this process can also apply to metals processing and chemical industries, growing its potential considerably further.

Speaking as he announced the partnership today, the President of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, said:  

"We were the first commercial airline to test a bio-fuel flight and we continue to lead the airline industry as the pioneer of sustainable aviation. This partnership to produce a next generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited about the savings that this technology could help us achieve.

"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.  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.

Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive of LanzaTech, said:

"This technology will enable airlines to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by reusing gases that would otherwise have been emitted directly into the atmosphere. It promotes sustainable industrial growth, as the process enables manufacturing plants to recycle their waste carbon emissions.

"While there is still work to be done and logistical hurdles to cross, we have excellent partners in Virgin Atlantic, Swedish Biofuels and Boeing and we are confident that we will have a facility with the capacity to produce fuel for commercial use by 2014."

This next generation technology overcomes the complex land use issues associated with some earlier generation biofuels – and detailed analysis suggests the fuel will produce around a 50% saving in lifecycle carbon emissions. The Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), the leading international body to ensure the sustainability of biofuels production, will advise the team to ensure the fuel produced meets key environmental, social and economic criteria.

Virgin Atlantic believes that this development will take the airline well beyond its pledge of a 30% carbon reduction per passenger km by 2020. The investment in renewable fuels is part of our wider program to reduce carbon through measures such as using new, more fuel-efficient aircraft and supporting a global carbon cap and trade scheme, through our involvement in Aviation Global Deal group.

For further information please contact the Virgin Atlantic U.S. Press Office at 203.750.2570 or visit www.virginatlantic.com.

For more information about Change is in the Air – Virgin Atlantic's sustainability program: www.virgin-atlantic.com/changeisintheair

Statements of support

Bill Glover, Boeing Vice President of Environmental Strategy and Aviation Policy said:

"Boeing is proud to support this important partnership between Virgin Atlantic, LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels. Sustainable aviation biofuel based upon conversion of alcohol to jet fuel is the next type of biofuel which will be under consideration for approval for use in commercial aviation. Boeing will be playing a key role in supporting the approval process drawing upon our extensive experience in sustainable biofuel development."

Peter Ryus, Manager of Certification and Implementation at the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels said:

"We are happy to be selected as the credible bar for this new fuel to meet. The team has demonstrated their commitment to ensuring sustainability criteria are met as the technology is developed, and we are happy to guide this process."

Dr. Ausilio Bauen, Head of Bioenergy at Imperial College London, said:

"The recycling of waste gases that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere to produce transport fuels, in a process such as the LanzaTech one, provides an excellent opportunity to reduce emissions associated with the use of petroleum fuels in transport."

Prof. Angelica Hull, Managing Director of Swedish Biofuels, said:

"Combining LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels technology presents an exciting opportunity to extend the raw material base for alternative aviation fuels."

Notes to editors:

  • Swedish Biofuels AB, a Stockholm based company, has developed technology for the production of alternative aviation fuels and has demonstrated this technology under a project funded by the U.S. Government Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency  (DARPA). During this project Swedish Biofuels has used  its technology in the production of fully synthetic 100 % biological aviation fuel from a wide variety of non-food biological feedstocks including lignocellulosic biomass. Their role in this process is to convert the ethanol produced by LanzaTech into jet fuel.

  • The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels has developed a global sustainability standard for the voluntary certification of best practices in biofuel production. This standard represents a global consensus among over 130 organizations including farmers, fuel producers, NGOs and fuel users. It is designed to provide efficient verification for industry, with environmental and social safeguards, and uses an innovative greenhouse gas (GHG) calculator. The RSB Standard is recognized by the European Commission under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) as well as the German Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE).

  • For a number of years Boeing has been acting as a catalyst to accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation biofuels, devoting significant resources to support this initiative. This work has included studies of different types of feedstocks, supporting demonstration flights and fuels approval and engaging in dialogue with policy makers and key stakeholders. Boeing is a founding member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group and a founding member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest. The company belongs to, and convened the initial meeting that led to the formation of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, a broad-based industry coalition including commercial, noncommercial and military aviation. In addition, Boeing sponsors and serves on the board of the Algal Biomass Organization and a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, an international initiative bringing together industry, investors, environmental organizations and producers of biofuels feedstock.

  • Virgin Atlantic recently accepted an experienced member of staff from Imperial on a secondment basis to work on the detailed sustainability and policy work that is needed in this important area. This is a valuable first step in developing a longer relationship with Imperial College London, which has a wide range of scientific and policy expertise to address the challenge of bringing sustainable aviation fuels to a commercial reality.

SOURCE Virgin Atlantic



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