Jennifer Holmgren and Richard Branson at the launch of the LanzaTech-Virgin biofuel partnership in 2011
Fri 24 Oct 2014 – LanzaTech and Virgin Atlantic have secured funding support from HSBC, the UK’s largest bank, that will allow sufficient production of LanzaTech’s new low carbon jet fuel for flight proving purposes. The LanzaTech process captures and ferments waste gases from industrial steel production and the resulting ethanol is chemically converted into jet fuel. It is one of a number of technology pathways currently undergoing scrutiny by fuel and aerospace experts before achieving the necessary ASTM certification that will allow use of the fuel in commercial flights. The two partners, which have been working on the fuel’s development for three years, said HSBC’s support, along with Boeing and other technical partners, would see a proving flight taking place within the next year. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline to be awarded the Quiet Mark certification for its new fleet of Boeing 787-9s.
“Virgin Atlantic was the first commercial airline to demonstrate the potential of a biofuel flight back in 2008 and today we are leading the way again as we work towards cleaner, more sustainable air travel,” announced the airline’s President, Sir Richard Branson. “With the support of HSBC, we are investing in the long term, sustainable future of air travel and we are excited about the carbon savings that this technology could help us to achieve.”
LanzaTech estimates its proprietary process can apply to 65% of the world’s steel mills, allowing its drop-in fuel to be scaled up for worldwide use and offering the potential to provide up to 19% of the world’s current jet fuel demand. The company claims it will be produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel.
Using Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) methodology and assumptions based on commercial production, LanzaTech says ethanol produced by its process may reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to petroleum fuel.
In November 2013, RSB certified LanzaTech’s joint venture facility, the Beijing Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Science & Technology Company, which was formed with the aim of producing future supplies of sustainable jet fuels for Virgin Atlantic on flights from Beijing (see article).
The ethanol has to undergo a further conversion to produce the necessary quantities of jet fuel for the proving flight and it is understood the investment by HSBC will be used towards this process at a still to be completed facility located in the United States.
“Together with our partners, we understand the need to have a fully sustainable fuel that is economic and has no impact on water, land or food resources,” said LanzaTech CEO Dr Jennifer Holmgren at a Virgin Atlantic 787-9 launch event. “From mill to wing, LanzaTech’s carbon recycling platform challenges the status quo. Today, we recycle glass, paper and metals, so why not carbon?”
Added Simon Martin, Global Head of Sustainability for HSBC: “We want to support really innovative projects that accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy. This partnership reflects our commitment to work with suppliers and customers alike to help address climate change, creating an environment in which businesses can be sustainable in the long term.”
Virgin Atlantic, which has committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 30% per revenue tonne km between 2007 and 2020, said it expected its new 787-9 Dreamliners to use over 20% less fuel on a per flight basis than the aircraft they replace. Following the delivery of its first Dreamliner, 16 more are due to join by 2018 and eventually make up 40% of the fleet. The new aircraft, says the airline, will also play a large part in helping it achieve a target to reduce noise output by 75% on a per aircraft movement basis.
Virgin Atlantic has been awarded the Quiet Mark certification for the 787-9 because of the aircraft’s smaller noise footprint, which is said to be around 60% less than aircraft of a comparable size.
“The Quiet Mark is awarded following certified noise data assessment carried out by Quiet Mark’s accredited acoustic experts, confirming the 787-9 to be noticeably quieter than any other jet airliner operational at the time of the test,” said Poppy Szkiler, Managing Director of Quiet Mark, a not-for-profit trading arm of the UK Noise Abatement Society charity.
Added Jill Brady, Director of People and External Affairs at Virgin Atlantic: “As an airline, we are working hard to reduce our impacts on the environment and the communities where we operate. We’re excited about what the 787 is going to achieve for us in terms of our sustainability goals.”
Virgin Atlantic ‘Change is in the Air’ sustainability programme
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