Solena and Rentech to partner on synthetic fuel technology for Europe's proposed first sustainable jet fuel facility
Solena's GreenSky facility is expected to fuel BA's fleet at London City Airport (photo: BA)
Thu 18 Nov 2010 – Solena Group, which is seeking to build a facility in London to convert waste biomass feedstock into sustainable jet fuel, has signed a letter of intent with fellow US company Rentech to negotiate a licensing deal to the use the latter’s proprietary Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) synthetic fuel technology. The GreenSky facility is due to open in 2014 and will produce around 16 million gallons of jet fuel and nine million gallons of bionaphtha a year when fully operational. Solena has identified potential sites and is currently in discussions with various funding sources to secure the finance for the project. British Airways has committed to a minimum 10-year offtake agreement to purchase all the jet fuel produced. Meanwhile, the airline said it has attracted interest from 18 potential suppliers of alternative jet fuel for an engine test programme it is planning with Rolls-Royce.
GreenSky will convert more than 500,000 tonnes of waste biomass material that would have been destined for landfill sites into synthesis gas (BioSynGas) every year, using Solena’s proprietary plasma gasification technology. The BioSynGas will then be processed by Rentech’s F-T technology into jet fuel. The plant will also export more than 20 megawatts of baseload renewable power to the grid after supplying the entire facility with clean electricity.
“Solena is delighted to have Rentech as a technology provider to what will be Europe’s first commercial scale sustainable biojet fuel facility,” said CEO Dr Robert Do. “We welcome them to the GreenSky consortium. Rentech’s iron-based catalyst F-T process is an ideal fit for Solena’s proprietary gasification solution.
“Bringing the two technologies together will allow us to create a truly sustainable drop-in jet fuel with the potential to transform the aviation industry.”
Solena says the facility will deliver a total reduction of over 2 million tonnes of CO2, including 145,000 tonnes from the replacement of conventional kerosene with its sustainable jet fuel, and claims a saving of 95% in lifecycle emissions.
Rentech is believed to have already completed a preliminary engineering study to help facilitate the integration of its process into the project.
“Airlines will soon be included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and Rentech is one of the few companies whose synthetic fuel technology can provide solutions to help reduce the financial and environmental impact of this legislation on the airline industry,” commented D. Hunt Ramsbottom, President and CEO of Rentech. “Renewable jet fuel is one of the only options airlines have to reduce the carbon footprint of their fleets.”
Solena says it is in the advanced stages of securing equity and investment, and has begun preparing debt financing for the $280 million facility. The company is looking to close all financing by the end of 2011 and start construction in 2012. It is aiming to complete construction by the end of 2013 and start delivering jet fuel to British Airways in 2014.
Solena is looking to announce its selection of an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project and provide an update on site selection in early 2011.
The British Airways agreement is a model that Solena says it plans to replicate with other airlines.
“We can only say that we have a pipeline of biojet fuel projects with other European and US airlines that are currently under discussion,” said Dr Do recently. “These facilities will be identical in design and capacity to the British Airways project.”
Meanwhile, the stalled British Airways programme with aero engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce to test alternative jet fuels appears to be back on track. When the two companies sent out Request for Proposals (RFPs) for adequate supplies of potential fuels two years ago there was little response. However, another attempt has yielded over 18 fuel companies interested in supplying the required 60,000 litres of fuel for testing.