Thu 3 Feb 2011 – Following news last month that Qantas had signed a letter of intent with US biofuel technology company Solena Group to explore the feasibility of building and operating a municipal solid waste (MSW) to jet biofuel conversion plant in Australia (see story), Italian carrier Alitalia and Solena have agreed to start a similar study. Solena is currently in the process of raising finance and identifying a potential site in London following an offtake agreement signed a year ago with British Airways (see story). Unconfirmed reports suggest Solena is also in discussions with various airlines about the possibility of a similar plant in Dublin. Under the Solena model, its proposed facility aims to convert around 500,000 tonnes of MSW into 16 million gallons of jet fuel and nine million gallons of bionaphtha per year.
The Italian agreement was signed by Alitalia CEO Rocco Sabelli, Solena Group CEO Dr Robert Do and the CEO of Solena Italia, Stefano Bugliosi. Also involved with the study is Italian algae biofuel company Enalg, a partner company of Solena Group and controller of Solena Italia, which was founded by a former Italian environment minister, Willer Bordon.
Alitalia said it expected a Solena-run plant would provide a “significant portion” of the jet fuel needed by its aircraft fleet and would result in a major reduction – up to 96% – in greenhouse gas emissions. Solena said it planned to involve national and local authorities in the project.
The Solena plasma gasification technology converts the MSW biomass at very high temperatures into ‘BioSynGas’ which is then converted through the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) process into liquid fuel. In November 2010, Solena signed a letter of intent with fellow US company Rentech to negotiate a licensing deal to use the latter’s proprietary F-T technology (see story).
To date, Solena has yet to build a commercial production plant and the London project – dubbed GreenSky – is not expected to come on-stream until 2014. At a cost of around $280 million to build each facility, Solena would need to raise over $1 billion if it was to go ahead with facilities in Australia, Italy, Ireland and the UK.
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