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SkyNRG Americas and LanzaTech secure DOE funding for Project LOTUS

SkyNRG Americas Inc, a subsidiary of the Netherlands-headed sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) aggregator and supplier SkyNRG BV, in partnership with LanzaTech Inc. has been awarded US$1 million in funding for Project LOTUS (Landfill Off-gas To Ultra-low carbon intensity SAF) to design, build, operate, and maintain a production facility that will convert raw landfill gas (LFG) into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

SkyNRG Americas in partnership with LanzaTech Inc. has been awarded US$1 million in funding for Project LOTUS (Landfill Off-gas To Ultra-low carbon intensity SAF) to design, build, operate, and maintain a production facility that will convert raw landfill gas (LFG) into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) recently announced more than US$64 million in funding for 22 projects focused on developing technologies and processes that produce low-cost, low-carbon biofuels.

The announcement was made as part of the Biden Administration’s goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050 and boost the production of sustainable fuels made from waste or plants to drive down the cost of SAF and create jobs.

The funding is part of a new Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, designed to inspire SAF production to at least 3 billion (US) gallons (≈ 11.4 billion litres) per annum by 2030.

According to The White House, aviation represents 11 percent of US transportation-related emissions. The goals set by the Administration are ambitious but achievable with the use of SAF.

We applaud the Biden Administration and the US Congress for taking action on climate change and for enabling the development of the much-needed sustainable aviation fuels industry. Our LanzaJet Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) technology provides one of the most versatile pathways to produce low-carbon, sustainable transportation fuels. SkyNRG Americas and LanzaTech will create a new waste-based ethanol stream as a feedstock to produce ATJ fuels and is a great step forward toward multi-industry decarbonization. We say that Someday is Now as we have the technology to enable action and impact today, said Jimmy Samartzis, CEO of LanzaJet, a subsidiary of LanzaTech.

An abundance of landfill gas

According to LanzaTech, LFG is an abundant source of waste biogenic carbon, typically comprising ~50 percent bio-based methane (CH4), ~40 percent carbon dioxide (CO2), and 10 percent nitrogen (N2).

The Landfill Off-gas To Ultra-low carbon intensity SAF, or Project LOTUS, will be the first to incorporate nearly all the carbon found in raw LFG carbon, including the CO2 found in the raw biogas, into drop-in SAF and renewable diesel.

The project will leverage green hydrogen and LanzaTech’s gas fermentation technology to convert LFG to ethanol at an operating landfill. The ethanol will be converted to SAF using the LanzaJet Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) technology developed by LanzaTech and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

Once the SAF has been produced, SkyNRG Americas has numerous contractual partners including Boeing and Alaska Airlines who are committed to advancing the use of the fuel in flight.

The SkyNRG Americas management team has a long history in biofuels and SAF. John Plaza, the CEO of SkyNRG Americas was previously the Founder and CEO of Imperium Renewables, which built a 5 million gallon (≈ 18.9 million litre) per annum biodiesel facility in 2005 in Seattle and scaled up the company’s proprietary technology at one of the largest biodiesel facilities (100 MGY ≈ 378.5 million litre p.a) in the US from 2007 to 2015.

Imperium also co-developed the initial PNNL Alcohol-to-Jet work in 2010 and collaborated with PNNL and LanzaTech for the DOE-funded development of the ATJ technology in 2011-2014.

We are very grateful to receive this award from the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office for Project LOTUS. We are also excited to collaborate with our partners to demonstrate commercial-scale SAF production from raw landfill biogas. This novel approach allows for the widespread use of biogas that will be upgraded into drop-in hydrocarbon fuels suitable for use in aviation – and, crucially, this production can be rapidly expanded across the US, creating new clean-tech jobs and investment. As a company dedicated to building SAF production capacity across the US, this award allows us to accelerate our growth and de-risk our scale-up efforts. With the recent goals from the Biden Administration for 3 billion gallons of domestic SAF production by 2030, this award helps companies like SkyNRG Americas to more rapidly drive toward the goal of decarbonizing aviation and to Build Back Better, said John Plaza, President and CEO of SkyNRG Americas.

Accelerate commercial rollout

Project LOTUS will enable a new domestic, regional supply chain to produce SAF that meets international ASTM specifications while reducing methane emissions and improving air quality. The resultant aviation fuel is high quality, low soot forming, and sustainably derived, reducing up to 110 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over traditional jet fuels.

Success in this project will materially increase the supply of low carbon intensity, low-cost SAF in the US and enable rapid build-out of new LFG to SAF production capacity across the United States.

In the US, more than half of our trash goes to landfills. Even with gas recovery systems in place at these sites, landfills are responsible for 15-18 percent of the anthropogenic methane released in the US today. This is a big problem that now becomes a big opportunity. We can avoid methane emissions and reduce emissions from aviation while keeping virgin fossil resources in the ground. Not only does this solve two problems at once, but it supports local job creation and domestic energy security, said Dr Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.

The funding from DOE will accelerate the commercial rollout of this SAF production pathway from LFG by reducing the technical and financial risks for future integrated commercial plants across the US.

Capturing gas from 35 landfills would produce over 500 million gallons (≈ 1.89 billion litres) of SAF per year, requiring at least 25 commercial-scale biorefineries, creating good-paying jobs, and creating a secure domestic SAF market.

Aviation is one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize, which is why sustainable aviation fuel is critical to achieving a net-zero future. We know the technology works, the fuel is safe, and that it has significantly fewer carbon emissions on a lifecycle basis relative to traditional jet fuel. But we need more of it. Grants like this are critical to getting a commercially viable market for SAF off the ground, and we appreciate Secretary Granholm and the Department of Energy for recognizing the need and investing in collaboration and SAF infrastructure in this way. We are also grateful to work with the experienced team at SkyNRG to support developing SAF from waste-based streams like landfill gas, and excited to fly with the future product, said Diana Birkett Rakow, VP Public Affairs & Sustainability, Alaska Airlines.

Further, analysis of the overall biogas resource potential indicates that more than 6 billion gallons (≈ 22.7 billion litres) of SAF could be produced from 25 percent of the LFG produced at American landfills and from anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic wastes and other biogas sources.

Our partnership with SkyNRG is an important milestone on the industry’s journey to decarbonize aviation so current and future generations can continue to enjoy the benefits of air travel, safely and sustainably. We applaud this project and the US Administration for providing support for the scale-up of SAF to address climate change and drive adoption within our industry, said Chris Raymond, Chief Sustainability Officer, Boeing.

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