Virgin Atlantic hails RSB certification of LanzaTech's Chinese venture to convert waste gases into sustainable jet fuels
LanzaTech's Dr Jennifer Holmgren and Virgin's Sir Richard Branson
Mon 25 Nov 2013 – The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), the preferred sustainability standard of major airlines for jet biofuels, has certified LanzaTech’s joint venture facility in China, which is aiming to produce future supplies of sustainable fuels for its partner airline, Virgin Atlantic. LanzaTech’s patented fermentation technology transforms CO or CO2 gases generated by the steel industry into bioethanol, which can then be converted into low-carbon jet fuels, and other platform chemicals. The facility is the first RSB-certified biofuel plant in China and the first anywhere in the world to receive certification for industrial carbon capture and utilisation. Virgin’s President, Sir Richard Branson, has described the LanzaTech process as a major breakthrough in the war on carbon.
The RSB certification has been awarded to Beijing Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Science & Technology Company, LanzaTech’s joint venture formed in 2011 with Shougang Jingtang Iron and Steel United Company and the Tang Ming Group.
Using the RSB methodology and assumptions based on commercial production, it is estimated that ethanol from the process may reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to petroleum fuels.
“The joint venture uses a process that creates a sustainable biofuel and does so by efficiently re-using greenhouse gases that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere,” said Peter Ryus, CEO of RSB Services. “This solution, which does not impact the food chain or land use, meets the RSB principles and practices, and serves as an example of how continued innovation in the industry will lead to sustainable biofuels in the future.”
Dr Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech’s CEO, said the certification was “an incredibly important step” and she expected commercial production to go online in 2014. “In addition, we trust this certification will help accelerate the acceptance of biofuels made through carbon capture technologies and serve to showcase the possibilities opened up by thinking of carbon emissions as an opportunity, not just a problem.”
LanzaTech estimates that its technology can apply to 65% of the world’s steel mills, re-using up to 150 million tonnes of CO2 and offering the potential to provide 19% of the world’s current jet fuel demand. In addition, the joint venture partners anticipate local air quality can also be improved by materially reducing NOx and particulate emissions.
Virgin Atlantic, which announced a partnership with LanzaTech in October 2011, is planning to start using the sustainable jet fuels on flights from China.
Craig Kreeger, the airline’s CEO, said the partnership was a key part of its sustainability programme. “Beyond our significant fleet upgrades and our comprehensive fuel efficiency programme, this breakthrough opportunity to pioneer away from fossil fuels offers us the best possible chance of substantially reducing the carbon emissions associated with our flying programme. Key to that has always been ensuring that any new fuel meets the highest possible sustainability standards, and we view RSB as the gold standard scheme to help us to achieve this.”
Sir Richard Branson added: “RSB’s certification is a crucial step to ensure this revolutionary new fuel will meet the highest possible environmental standards and will result in a radical reduction in our carbon footprint.”