MIAMI – British Airways (BA) is partnering with sustainable jet fuel company LanzaJet to power future flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced from sustainably-sourced ethanol.

The partnership will see BA invest in LanzaJet’s first commercial-scale plant, the Freedom Pines Fuels facility, in Soperton, GA, about 150 miles southwest of Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL) in Georgia, USA. The carrier will acquire cleaner-burning SAF from the plant. It expects the fuel to be available to power a number of its flights by the end of 2022.

In addition, the partnership will involve LanzaJet’s implementing early stage planning and design for a potential commercial facility for British Airways in the UK.

The plant in Soperton is due to begin construction this year. It will convert sustainable ethanol (a chemical compound widely blended with gasoline to reduce its carbon intensity and raise octane) into sustainable aviation fuel using a patented chemical process.

The fuel produced at the plant will deliver a reduction of more than 70% in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fossil jet fuel, equivalent to taking almost 27,000 gasoline or diesel cars off the road each year.

Photo: Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)

The Technology


The sustainable aviation fuel produced by LanzaJet is made via the LanzaJet™ Alcohol to Jet (AtJ) Process which can use any source of sustainable ethanol, including, but not limited to, ethanol made from non-edible agricultural residues such as wheat straw and recycled pollution. Commercialization of AtJ has been years in the making, starting with the partnership between LanzaTech (which launched LanzaJet in June 2020) and the U.S Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

According to biofuels-news.com, the multistage process starts with the conversion of ethanol into ethylene (dehydration). The second stage (oligomerization) chemically combines ethylene molecules to build the range of hydrocarbon molecules needed for aviation fuel. The hydrocarbons are then hydrogenated, followed by fractionation to produce alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene with the desired properties.

British Airways G-XWBE Airbus A350-1041. Photo: Erwin Eslami/airways

BA’s Push for Sustainable Fuel


The development and use of sustainable aviation fuels is a major focus for British Airways and forms part of the airline’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 through a series of short, medium and long-term initiatives.

The airline has an existing partnership with sustainable fuels technology company Velocys, with the goal of building a facility to convert household and commercial waste into renewable sustainable jet fuel in the UK.

That initiative might produce fuel by 2025. British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group, will be investing US$400m in sustainable aviation fuel in the next 20 years.

British Airways G-NEOV Airbus A321-251NX. Photo: Roberto Leiro/Airways

BA CEO Comments


Sean Doyle, British Airways’ CEO, said, “Despite the crisis in global aviation, it is vital for our future that we continue to address climate change and remain focused on playing our part to reduce the impact we have on the planet.”

“Progressing the development and commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuel is crucial to decarbonising the aviation industry. This partnership with LanzaJet shows the progress British Airways is making as we continue on our journey to net zero.”

“Following the successful start-up of the Georgia plant, we hope to then deploy the technology and SAF production capacity in the UK. The UK has the experience and resources needed to become a global leader in the deployment of such sustainable aviation fuel production facilities, and we need Government support to drive decarbonisation and accelerate the realization of this vision.”

Jimmy Samartzis, LanzaJet CEO, said, “We are delighted to welcome British Airways to the LanzaJet family. Low-cost, sustainable fuel options are critical for the future of the aviation sector, and the LanzaJet process offers the most flexible feedstock solution at scale, recycling wastes and residues into SAF that allows us to keep fossil jet fuel in the ground. With the right support for waste-based fuels, the UK would be an ideal location for commercial scale LanzaJet plants.” 


Lanzajet logo. Image: Lanzajet

LanzaJet


LanzaJet launched in June 2020 and is a spin-off from leading biotech company LanzaTech. BA will join LanzaTech, Mitsui, and Suncor Energy as investors in LanzaJet.

According to the company, with the addition of BA, LanzaJet now plans to develop a further four larger-scale plants operating from 2025, producing a pipeline of sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel made from sustainable feedstocks, to support and enable the global decarbonization of the aviation sector.

The company states, “We hope that some or all of these plants will be built in the UK subject to improved government policy support for waste-based sustainable aviation fuels.”


Featured image: British Airways G-ZBLA Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. Brandon Frarris/Airways