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British Airways partner with Solena to convert trash into jet fuel

British Airways partner with Solena to convert trash into jet fuel

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British Airways and the Solena Group announced on Monday a partnership to establish Europe's first sustainable jet-fuel plant and convert trash into jet fuel.

British Airways and Washington, D.C.-based bioenergy firm the Solena Group announced on Monday a partnership to establish Europe's first sustainable jet-fuel plant and convert trash into jet fuel.

The new fuel will be derived from waste biomass and manufactured in a new facility that can convert several types of waste materials destined for landfill into aviation fuel.

The airline said it plans to use the low-carbon fuel to power part of its fleet beginning in 2014.

The self-contained plant will likely be built in east London. It's expected to convert 551,000 tons of waste into 16 million gallons of green jet fuel each year.

Quick hits about the savings:

  • The plant offers lifecycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 95 percent compared to fossil-fuel derived jet kerosene.
  • The project will reduce the volume of waste sent to landfill.
  • The plant itself will be CO2 neutral, and will emit oxygen, plus small quantities of nitrogen, argon, steam and carbon dioxide.
  • The only solid waste product is an inert vitrified slag material, which can be used as an alternative to aggregates used in construction.
  • Tail gas can be used to produce 20MW of excess electricity for export to the national grid or converted into steam to be used in a district heating system.

The green fuel will be produced by feeding waste into a patented high temperature gasifier that produces BioSynGas, or biomass-derived synthetic gas. Using a process known as Fischer Tropsch, the gas is converted into biofuels to produce biojet fuel and bionaphtha.

Bionaphtha is used as a blending component in gasoline, as well as a feedstock for the petrochemicals industry.

The resulting fuel would make all of British Airways' flights at nearby London City Airport carbon-neutral, and is the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road per year, BA says.

British Airways has signed a letter of intent to purchase all the fuel produced by the plant, which will be built by Solena.

"This unique partnership with Solena will pave the way for realising our ambitious goal of reducing net carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050," said British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh in prepared remarks. " We believe it will lead to the production of a real sustainable alternative to jet kerosene. We are absolutely determined to reduce our impact on climate change and are proud to lead the way on aviation's environmental initiatives."

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure