Boost for British Airways and Solena waste-to-jet fuel GreenSky project as location of facility is confirmed
An architectural impression of the GreenSky facility (graphic: British Airways)
Wed 16 Apr 2014 – The British Airways and Solena project to convert landfill waste into jet fuel has received a major boost with the announcement of the location chosen for the facility. The site will be in the Thames Enterprise Park, a regeneration project just east of London on the estuary of the River Thames that includes a former oil refinery. Work on building the GreenSky facility is expected to start in 2015 and employ around 1,000 workers in the construction, which is due to be completed in 2017, and create up to 150 permanent jobs when operational. British Airways is providing construction capital and becoming a minority shareholder in the $500 million GreenSky project. The airline has committed to purchasing all the jet fuel produced by the plant, around 16 million gallons a year, for the next 11 years at market competitive prices, currently worth around $550 million.
“We are always striving to reduce our impact on climate change and this first-of-its-kind project marks a significant step for the aviation industry,” said Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG. “The construction of the GreenSky London facility will lay the foundations for British Airways to reduce its carbon emissions significantly. The sustainable jet fuel produced each year will be enough to power our flights from London City Airport twice over with carbon savings the equivalent of taking 150,000 cars off the road.”
The brownfield industrial site in Thurrock, Essex is situated in the northern Thames Gateway and is said to have good transport links and existing fuel storage facilities. Part of the site had been occupied by the former Coryton Oil Refinery, which had been redundant for years before its sale in 2012, and the rest had originally been held as refinery expansion land. The assets of the refinery were acquired by a consortium comprising Vopak, Shell and Greenergy and rebranded as a joint venture named Thames Oilport. The venture is looking to develop a refurbished terminal for the bulk importation and blending of fuels and redevelop the rest of the site for renewable energy and power generation projects such as GreenSky.
“This is an ideal site for a biofuel initiative like Solena’s and we are very pleased to be associated with it. It is located on the Thames with fuel storage and fuel pipelines and good road, rail and jetty infrastructure,” said Andrew Owens, Chief Executive of Greenergy. “Thames Enterprise Park’s main goal is to provide regeneration of the former Coryton oil refinery following its closure. The facility proposed by British Airways and Solena is exactly the type of high profile technology project both we and Thurrock Council want to attract to the site, particularly given the number of skilled jobs provided.”
Advice on the financing of the GreenSky project is being provided by Barclays. “This is undoubtedly a unique and ground-breaking project. The economic and environmental fundamentals will, we believe, be attractive to investors from both a debt and equity perspective,” said Gabriel Buck, Head of CAPEX Financing Solutions at Barclays. “The project debt structure has been identified with preliminary agreements in place with an Export Credit Agency who are not only providing the guarantees but also the funding. We are now focused with the project team on getting all aspects of the funding structure completed.”
GreenSky will take around 575,000 tonnes of annual post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration, for conversion into 120,000 tonnes of clean-burning liquid fuels, including 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel, using Solena’s patented high-temperature plasma gasification technology. This converts the waste into synthetic gas, which is then converted into liquid hydrocarbons using third-party technologies that include cleaning and conditioning of the gas, a Velocys Fischer-Tropsch conversion process, hydrocracking and electric power production. Solena says it has completed the initial engineering design and with its partners is now starting the next engineering phase of the facility.
“We anticipate starting construction of the site in approximately 12 months, after all the requisite permits and agreements have been obtained,” said Robert Do, CEO of Solena Fuels. “We are looking forward to successfully building GreenSky London and partnering with British Airways on additional facilities in the United Kingdom.”
British Airways’ Head of Environment, Jonathon Counsell, told a seminar at the recent World Bio Markets event that the airline is expecting annual savings of up to 145,000 tonnes of CO2 from using GreenSky fuels. “We are doing this to help reduce our carbon emissions, not to get a source of cheap fuel. It’s very much a demonstration plant for us. If we can prove this works commercially then we will build a number of them in the UK – potentially up to six – at this scale or even bigger,” he said.
Further details of the airline’s sustainable biofuel plans and the GreenSky facility are expected to be revealed by Counsell and Walsh at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva later this month.