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British Airways eyes possible UK future SAF supply with LanzaJet partnership

UK air carrier British Airways is to power future flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced from sustainably sourced ethanol, as part of a new partnership with US-based sustainable jet fuel company LanzaJet Inc. The partnership, which reflects the airline's focus on sustainability and its continued investment in SAF, will see British Airways invest in LanzaJet’s first commercial-scale Freedom Pines facility in Georgia (GA), and acquire cleaner-burning SAF expected by the end of 2022.

UK air carrier British Airways (BA) is to power future flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced from sustainably sourced ethanol, as part of a new partnership with US-based sustainable jet fuel company LanzaJet Inc. The partnership, which reflects the airline’s focus on sustainability and its continued investment in SAF, will see BA invest an undisclosed amount in LanzaJet’s first commercial-scale Freedom Pines facility in Georgia (GA), United States (US) and acquire cleaner-burning SAF expected by the end of 2022. In early 2016, BA had “been forced” to mothball the GreenSky SAF project that was to supply London City Airport (LCY) with up to 50 000 tonnes per year of biojet fuel (photo courtesy British Airways).

The LanzaJet partnership is a collaboration between British Airways (BA) and Hangar 51, International Airlines Group’s (IAG) industry-leading accelerator programme. LanzaJet was launched by carbon recycler and bioprocess developer LanzaTech Inc in June 2020.

LanzaJet is building a demonstration plant as an integrated biorefinery at LanzaTech’s Freedom Pines site in Soperton, Georgia (GA) in the United States (US). Using the LanzaJet Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) process, a patented chemical process that can use any source of sustainable ethanol, including, but not limited to, ethanol made from non-edible agricultural residues such as wheat straw or recycled waste gases, and convert it into SAF.

The commercialization of AtJ has been years in the making, starting with the partnership between LanzaTech, and the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

Due to begin construction this year, it will produce 10 million (US) gallons (≈37.85 million litres) per annum of SAF and renewable diesel with production expected to start in early 2022. The SAF produced at the plant will deliver a reduction of more than 70 percent in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.

Our world is at a crossroads on climate change and our industry is at an inflection point, prepared to accelerate the energy transition that is needed. We are delighted to welcome British Airways to the LanzaJet family. Low-cost, sustainable fuel options are critical for the future of the aviation sector and the LanzaJet process offers the most flexible feedstock solution at scale, recycling wastes, and residues into SAF that allows us to keep fossil jet fuel in the ground, said Jimmy Samartzis, CEO of LanzaJet.

Develop and use SAF

The development and use of SAF is a major focus for British Airways and forms part of the airline’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 through a series of short, medium, and long-term initiatives.

Despite the crisis in global aviation, it is vital for our future that we continue to address climate change and we remain focused on playing our part to reduce the impact we have on the planet. For the last 100 years we have connected Britain with the world and the world with Britain, and to ensure our success for the next 100, we must do this sustainably. Progressing the development and commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuel is crucial to decarbonizing the aviation industry and this partnership with LanzaJet shows the progress British Airways is making as we continue on our journey to net-zero, said Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways.

In the short-term, the airline is improving its operational efficiency, flying more fuel-efficient aircraft, and introducing carbon offset and removal projects. The airline currently offsets emissions on all flights within the UK and offers customers the option to voluntarily offset their emissions if travelling further afield.

In the medium- to long-term, in addition to the airline’s investment in the development of SAF, it is also looking at technological solutions such as zero-emissions hydrogen aircraft and carbon capture technology.

Possible LanzaJet plant(s) in the UK

British Airways will be joining LanzaTech Inc, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (Mitsui), and Suncor Energy Inc (Suncor) as investors in LanzaJet. The airline has an existing partnership with sustainable fuels technology company Velocys plc, with the goal of building a facility to convert household and commercial waste into renewable sustainable jet fuel in the UK from which fuel could be produced by 2025.

Alcohol-to-jet production units at LanzaTech Freedom Pines Biorefinery in Soperton, Georgia. (photo courtesy LanzaTech).

Alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) production units at LanzaTech Freedom Pines Biorefinery in Soperton, GA (photo courtesy LanzaTech).

British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group, will be investing US$400 million in SAF in the next 20 years. In addition, the partnership with LanzaJet will involve LanzaJet implementing early-stage planning and design for a potential commercial facility for British Airways in the UK.

Following the successful start-up of the Georgia plant, we hope to then deploy the technology and SAF production capacity in the UK. The UK has the experience and resources needed to become a global leader in the deployment of such sustainable aviation fuel production facilities, and we need Government support to drive decarbonisation and accelerate the realization of this vision, said Sean Doyle.

Although the value of this investment has not been disclosed, with British Airways onboard, LanzaJet now plans to develop a further four larger-scale plants operating from 2025, producing a pipeline of SAF and renewable diesel made from sustainable feedstocks, to support and enable the global decarbonisation of the aviation sector.

It is hoped that some or all of these plants will be built in the UK subject to improved Government policy support for waste-based SAF. British Airways and LanzaTech are also part of the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between government and industry to drive forward the UK Government’s net zero-emission ambitions for the aviation and aerospace sector, with a focus on sustainable aviation fuels.

British Airways has long been a champion of waste-to-fuel pathways, especially with the UK Government. With the right support for waste-based fuels, the UK would be an ideal location for commercial-scale LanzaJet plants. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with BA and the UK Government in making this a reality, and to continuing our support of bringing the Prime Minister’s Jet Zero vision to life, ended Jimmy Samartzis.

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