The UK’s first waste-to-jet fuel plant takes a step forward as Velocys secures planning permission
Illustration of the proposed Altalto plant
Thu 21 May 2020 – Sustainable fuels technology company Velocys has received planning approval to build its proposed Altalto Immingham waste-to-jet fuel plant on a site in the north-east of England. Subject to completion of legal agreements with the local council and final funding, the company says it plans to begin construction in 2022 and to start producing commercial volumes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in 2025. The plant will convert “hundreds of thousands” of tonnes of non-recyclable household and commercial waste, otherwise destined for landfill or incineration, into SAF for the partners in the project, Shell and British Airways. The planning approval had been subject to an objection by the government-sponsored body Natural England, which expressed concern over the plant’s location near an estuary site rich in wildlife but the objection was withdrawn and the council unanimously approved the application.
The £500 million ($600m) Altalto plant on an 80-acre (32ha) site by the Humber estuary is expected to create up to 130 permanent skilled jobs and many more during construction. It was given the go-ahead in a report by officers from the North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC) last week and recommended, subject to conditions, for approval by councillors. The site would not only bring socio-economic benefits but would also not harm the area’s character or local amenity, said the report.
“This development cements north-east Lincolnshire’s place at the heart of the UK’s green industrial revolution, an area already renowned for its fuels production and offshore wind industry,” said Councillor Philip Jackson, Leader of the NELC. “I look forward to seeing what this will mean in terms of real jobs for local people, both during the construction phase and when the project is operational in the longer term.”
Velocys CEO Henrik Wareborn said the approval was “fantastic news”, adding SAF was essential for decarbonising the aviation sector and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
“That’s why Velocys is calling on the government to coordinate policy between departments to help us fund a fleet of world-leading SAF facilities in the UK,” he said.
The planning permission has been welcomed by the UK Department for Transport. “It’s great to see the industry leading the way in creating new technologies to help achieve our target of net zero emissions by 2050, while also bringing new jobs to the local area,” said Aviation Minister Kelly Tolhurst. “Innovative technologies – like the development of sustainable aviation fuels – firms up the UK’s position as a leader in aviation and shows the determination the industry has in continuing to operate, but in a more environmentally-friendly way.”
Velocys claims its fuel will offer net GHG savings of around 70% for each tonne of conventional jet fuel it displaces, along with up to 90% reduction in particulate matter from aircraft engine exhausts and nearly 100% reduction in sulphur oxides.
Alongside the Bayou Fuels woody biomass-to-fuels project it is currently developing in Natchez, Mississippi, Fischer-Tropsch specialist Velocys has assembled all the technology components for Altalto into a standardised integrated design. It is also supplying the central processing unit that turns a gas mixture of carbon and hydrogen into the liquid hydrocarbons required to create SAF. In February, the company appointed engineering contractor Worley to manage the delivery of the integrated technology package.
As well as intending to purchase fuel from Altalto for its aviation customers, Shell will also provide technical expertise to the project, based on its experience of gasification and Fischer-Tropsch conversion.
Altalto is being executed under a Joint Development Agreement between Velocys, Shell and British Airways, which has now been extended as planned in order to support the continued technical and commercial development of the project. BA and Shell have been granted an option to take a one-third share in Altalto’s equity capital at a strike price of £1, which Velocys says is a pre-cursor to a full shareholder’s agreement “in due course”.
To be payable before the end of June, BA and Shell have agreed to a further £1 million towards the project’s funding.
British Airways is also expected to purchase jet fuel produced at the plant for its own aircraft. Commenting on the planning permission approval, a spokesperson for the airline said: “Last year, we committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 through a range of initiatives, including in the development of sustainable aviation fuels. We welcome this announcement which is excellent news and reaffirms the importance of this project.”