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LanzaTech ATJ plant part of South Wales industrial decarbonization project plans

US-headed carbon recycler LanzaTech Inc., has been working with the UK government and several industrial partners to build and commission the world’s first commercial-scale, ethanol-based Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) production facility in South Wales. UK Government support including Innovate UK, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), UK Department of Transport (DfT), and Jet Zero Council has helped progress the project to the next phase in commercialization.

In the UK, the South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC) deployment project, led by Costain, has been granted phase two funding of nearly £20 million (≈ EUR 23.4 million) following successful completion of phase one assessments looking at decarbonization schemes and the infrastructure required for a hydrogen economy in South Wales (graphic courtesy SWIC).

The proposed LanzaTech ATJ facility will be further developed within Phase 2 of the South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC), a consortium involving 17 partners led by Costain. This phase of SWIC is supported by GBP20 million (≈ EUR 23.4 million) grant funding from Innovate UK, with a further GBP17.6 million (≈ EUR 20.6 million) provided by industry, and aims to reduce industrial emissions at sites throughout South Wales, supporting Welsh NetZero targets.

The SWIC holds the potential to strengthen the economic resilience of Welsh industry and its communities by ensuring operations in the region are sustainable for the long term. As the lead for deployment, Costain is bringing together global industrial partners, specialist consultants, and academia to deliver faster, cleaner, more efficient, and exciting innovations that have the potential to decarbonize these industries nationally and internationally, said Maxine Mayhew, Managing Director for Natural Resources, Costain.

Within SWIC, LanzaTech will select the final project site, perform site-specific engineering, and obtain facility permits, with support from Costain. The funding is being awarded through UKRI’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) decarbonization of industrial clusters phase two: deployment competition. It is delivered by the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge.

Developing the supply chain for a technology that not only creates sustainable aviation fuels, to help decarbonization the aviation sector, at the same time as it decarbonizes our existing heavy industries, is a hugely exciting opportunity for the South Wales Industrial Cluster. This is a fantastic example of an innovative technology that is developing a novel cross-sector solution to support the UK reach its net-zero target, said Dr Chris Williams, Head of Industrial Decarbonisation, Industry Wales.

Use steel mill off-gases

The proposed plant will use ethanol feedstock produced from steel mill waste gases and other wastes. This process, therefore, contributes to industrial decarbonization, as well as creating a more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Developing South Wales into a net-zero industrial zone will create thousands of jobs as well as delivering improvements in the local environment. LanzaTech’s plans could play a key part in driving this transformation. Reaching the UK Government’s climate targets will require significant change across our economy, but in South Wales and elsewhere we will achieve our aims in a way that protects jobs, creates new industries, and encourages growth, said Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales.

The proposed facility will yield around 100 million litres per annum of ATJ Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (ATJ-SPK) to build out the entire supply chain from feedstock to wing. Using a 30 percent blend target, the 100 million litres of ATJ-SPK will yield approximately 330 million litres per annum of blended SAF and will create around 15 direct jobs and up to 900 indirect jobs during construction and operation.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels have enormous potential to cut carbon emissions, support the creation of thousands of jobs and help us to build back better and greener. LanzaTech’s innovative technology gets us one step closer to being able to produce sustainable aviation fuels at scale and deliver our world-leading decarbonization programme, all while boosting local jobs in South Wales, said Robert Courts, Aviation Minister.

SAF for UK-based airlines

The SAF from this facility will be used by UK-based airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, with which LanzaTech has partnered for over a decade. In October 2018, the first batch of LanzaTech jet fuel, made by recycling waste industrial gases, was used on a Virgin Atlantic commercial flight from Orlando to London Gatwick.

In 2018, LanzaTech, Virgin Atlantic, and partners received a GBP410 000 (≈ EUR 465 000) grant from the UK Department for Transport (DfT) Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition (F4C) for the project feasibility study.

Virgin Atlantic has been a longstanding supporter of LanzaTech and its ground-breaking technology to help develop waste-based sustainable aviation fuels. The Government now has a significant opportunity to create a UK-based production capability, which can lead the way in the decarbonization of the UK airline sector, create jobs and lead the green industrial revolution. As US firms start to build out their overseas capability, we would urge the UK Government to accelerate its support for first-of-a-kind production facilities and put in place a favourable regulatory regime and financial guarantees to do so, said Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer, Virgin Atlantic.

Build and operate

LanzaTech will build and operate this first UK deployment of the LanzaJet ATJ technology. Then, both LanzaTech and its spin-out company, LanzaJet, will develop multiple follow-on projects in the UK and globally as the market for sustainable jet fuel develops, primarily via a licensing model in which customers build, own, and operate facilities that use the LanzaJet technology.

In February 2021, British Airways announced its investment in LanzaJet. LanzaTech CEO and Chair of the LanzaJet Board, Dr Jennifer Holmgren sits on the UK Government’s Jet Zero Council with LanzaTech representatives’ part of the Jet Zero Council working groups.

Aviation presents unique decarbonization challenges and it will take a global approach to help this key hard-to-abate sector meet net-zero targets. It is thanks to the support and close partnership with the US Department of Energy and its PNNL energy laboratory that we are now able to bring our unique platform to the UK, with the combined support of industry and the UK government, including Innovate UK and United Kingdom Research and Innovation. This model of government and industry collaboration is precisely what the world needs to rapidly speed the pace of technology development and deployment said Dr Jennifer Holmgren.

The SAF from this project is made via the LanzaJet Alcohol to Jet (AtJ) process, which can use any source of sustainable ethanol, including, but not limited to, ethanol made from non-edible agricultural residues such as wheat straw and recycled industrial emissions which are otherwise unavoidable.

The commercialization of AtJ has been years in the making, starting with the partnership between LanzaTech (which launched LanzaJet in June 2020) and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

Our global society can no longer wait to act on climate change. The time is now, and we need to work together to develop new solutions and new industries to support hard to decarbonize sectors like aviation. The acceleration of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels industry is at an inflection point where government support to develop the industry is critical and we’re grateful for the UK Government’s actions and support, serving as a model for other countries to follow, said Jimmy Samartzis, CEO, LanzaJet.

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