LanzaTech main beneficiary of $7.7 million FAA contract awards and ranking from new renewable jet fuel website
Dr Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech CEO, and Richard Branson
Mon 5 Dec 2011 – The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awarding $7.7 million in contracts to eight companies to help advance alternative and sustainable jet fuels. Contracts worth over $1 million will go to Honeywell UOP, Virent Energy Systems and Velocys, with $3 million going to LanzaTech, an alcohol-to-jet fuel company which is rapidly becoming a potentially big player in alternative jet fuels since its partnership with Virgin Atlantic was announced in October, along with recent grants from US defence research agency DARPA and the US Department of Energy. Meanwhile, the Carbon War Room, the business initiative started by Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, has launched an open access website called RenewableJetFuels.org to help assess the progress of companies planning to produce commercial-scale sustainable aviation fuels.
The FAA contracts address a recommendation issued by the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee, which was commissioned by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) last year. Comprised of experts from industry, academia, labour and government, the committee specifically recommended that the DOT “exercise strong national leadership to promote and display US aviation as a first user of sustainable alternative fuels”.
Smaller contracts have been offered to four other companies: Honeywell Aerospace, Metron Aviation, Futurepast and Life Cycle Associates. The eight companies will help the FAA develop and approve alternative, sustainable and drop-in fuels from sources such as alcohols, sugars, biomass and organic materials known as pyrolysis oils. In addition, the contracts call for research into alternative jet fuel quality control, examination of how jet biofuels affect engine durability and provide guidance to jet biofuel users about factors that affect sustainability.
“Alternative aviation fuels offer enormous potential environmental and economic benefits,” commented FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “This work, in combination with investments being made by other US agencies and industry, will advance our pursuit of clean alternative jet fuels for a more sustainable NextGen aviation system in the United States and around the world.”
The launch of RenewableJetFuels.org is timed to coincide with the COP 17 climate talks in Durban. According to an article in today’s The Guardian newspaper, Branson compares the millions of filling stations required by cars to only 1,700 “outlets” needed by the world’s airlines.
He said the industry could switch to sustainable fuels sooner than previously thought and it should be aiming for a 50% uptake by 2020 – “I would be very disappointed if not” – and that 50-100% was not unrealistic once a breakthrough in scale was achieved.
The RenewableJetFuels.org initiative is led by the Carbon War Room’s senior advisor on aviation and renewable fuels, Suzanne Hunt of Washington, DC-based Hunt Green LLC. An eight-member advisory board for the initiative has been set up, which includes Dr Ausilio Bauen of consultancy E4tech, Barbara Bramble of the National Wildlife Federation and Chair of the Steering Board of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and Maarten van Dijk of aviation biofuel supplier SkyNRG.
In partnership with academic publisher Elsevier, RenewableJetFuels.org has compiled a top 10 of companies based on a best assessment of their abilities to contribute to near- and mid-term large scale CO2 reduction potential. The three principal criteria for their ranking are economic viability, scalability and sustainability.
Ranked in order, the company judged to be leading the way is LanzaTech, followed by SG Biofuels, AltAir, Solazyme, Sapphire, Dynamic Fuels, Gevo, Neste, Terrabon and Envergent.
The website’s data, said Branson, should allow airlines to accelerate linkups with fuel companies.
“Participants in the industry need a more complete understanding of the firms in the market, supply chain risks, technology performance and differentiation, and scalability in order to form partnerships, sign contracts and provide finance that will be essential for this historic shift to a commercial scale, global renewable jet fuel industry,” says the RenewableJetFuels.org website.