Virgin Atlantic says it has taken a “significant step forward” in bringing a sustainable fuel product to market after successfully producing 1,500 US gallons of jet fuel.
The “breakthrough” towards developing commercially viable low carbon fuel is the result of a partnership between Virgin Atlantic and energy firm Lanzatech. Since 2011 they have worked at producing jet fuel derived from waste industrial gases from steel mills via a fermentation process.
Lanzatech and Virgin Atlantic will now continue to work with Boeing and other industry suppliers to complete the testing aircraft and engine manufacturers require before approving the fuel for first use in a commercial aircraft.
The airline said assuming all initial approvals are achieved, the Lanzatech jet fuel could be used in a “first of kind proving flight in 2017”.
“This is a real game changer for aviation and could significantly reduce the industry’s reliance on oil within our lifetime,” said the airline’s founder Richard Branson.
“Virgin Atlantic was the first commercial airline to test a biofuel flight and continues to be a leader in sustainable aviation,” he said. “We chose to partner with Lanzatech because of its impressive sustainability profile and the commercial potential of the jet fuel.
“Our understanding of low carbon fuels has developed rapidly over the last decade, and we are closer than ever before to bringing a sustainable product to the market for commercial use by Virgin Atlantic and other global airlines.”
The Lanzanol was produced in China at the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials certified Shougang demonstration facility. The alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) process was developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab with support from the US department of Energy and funding from HSBC.
At the ITM conference in St Andrews last year, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary described airline’s approach to developing biofuels as a “PR stunt”.
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