LanzaTech/Shougang ethanol demonstration plant near Beijing
Wed 4 July 2018 – Alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel technology company LanzaTech has secured a £410,000 ($540,000) grant from the UK Department for Transport (DfT) to help with project development funding for building the world’s first large-scale ATJ facility producing commercial quantities of low carbon jet fuel in the UK. The grant from the DfT’s Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition (F4C) is for a similar amount awarded to the Velocys/British Airways municipal solid waste (MSW) to jet fuel project that was announced recently (see article). With its airline partner Virgin Atlantic and others, LanzaTech is planning a 40-50 million litres per year plant that would convert ethanol produced from waste industrial gases into jet fuel. Earlier this year, ethanol was added to ASTM’s specification for ATJ synthetic paraffinic kerosene.
“This waste to jet fuel project has the potential to help transform the aviation industry by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the air quality around our country’s airports,” said the government’s Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling. “That is why we are providing support to this important technology as part of our £22 million ($29m) funding for alternative fuels, which will pave the way for clean growth in the UK. Supporting important developments like this is just part of our work to help ensure our aviation sector is greener than ever, and we will explore further measures as part of our Aviation Strategy.”
LanzaTech’s partners in the project cover various links in the supply chain such as the aviation sector, steel mill ethanol supply, technical, sustainability and site. As well as Virgin Atlantic, partners include Boeing, SkyNRG, Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, ArcelorMittal, Air BP, World Fuel Services, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Ecofys, RSB, Cerulogy, Tata Steel UK and Greenenergy.
“The British government understands the importance of using waste feedstocks for flight to help decarbonise the aviation sector,” said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “We are delighted to be part of this vision and together with our partners are looking forward to realising a commercial ATJ facility in the UK.”
According to LanzaTech’s Chief Sustainability Officer Freya Burton, the grant will be used towards a feasibility study for the project that will look at identifying possible sites around the UK for the facility. She said an application for important Stage Two funding would be made later this year, with announcements expected in early 2019.
In a joint venture with leading iron and steel producer Shougang, LanzaTech already has a demonstration plant at a steel mill in Hebei Province, China, capable of producing 46,000 tons (16 million gallons) of ethanol per year. Last month, in a partnership with global steel company ArcelorMittal, ground was broken on a new installation in Ghent, Belgium, that will convert blast furnace carbon emissions into bioethanol. First production is expected by mid-2020 with a potential capacity of 80 million litres per year.
Despite the funding award by the Department for Transport (DfT), jet fuels converted from ethanol that has been produced from industrial waste gases are currently outside the UK’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) qualification. The government scheme provides a valuable incentive for suppliers of renewable transport fuels. Jet fuels produced from municipal solid waste, such as the Velocys/British Airways venture, were added to the RTFO last September (see article).
“We have been working very closely with the DfT on how our fuel might be included in the future,” Burton told GreenAir. “The DfT has been watching very closely the outcome of the discussions on the EU’s post-2020 Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) as there is a provision in the draft to include what is termed recycled carbon fuels. As we understand it, the UK is likely to mirror the directive post-Brexit.”
LanzaTech’s optimism is boosted by a report carried out by E4tech for the DfT that was published in January. The ‘Low Carbon Fossil Fuels Sustainability Risks and Accounting Methodology’ study, which also looked at MSW fuels, concluded fuels produced from waste industrial gases, which would always have alternatively been combusted, “are highly likely to reduce GHG emissions compared to fossil petrol or diesel.”
Said Burton: “Our last exchanges with the DfT were very positive, as is the F4C award. Although we are not yet included in the RTFO, these are steps in the right direction.”
LanzaTech and Virgin Atlantic are preparing for a first commercial flight using the fuel, although no date has been disclosed. A batch has already been produced from ethanol manufactured at the China facility and converted into jet fuel by the US Department of Energy’s PNNL.
“As LanzaTech’s long-time partner, we’re excited to be able to support building commercial capacity in the UK, and look forward to our future flights being powered by this advanced, waste-based solution,” said Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic.
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