British Airways takes another major step along the path to sustainable fuel as it invests in Europe’s first plant to turn household and commercial solid waste into fuel

British Airways says it is one step closer to powering its future fleet of aircraft with sustainable jet fuel made from rubbish after it was revealed this week that plans have been submitted to develop Europe’s first household and commercial solid waste to sustainable fuels plant.

Altalto Immingham Limited, a subsidiary of renewable fuels company Velocys and a collaboration with British Airways and Shell, have together submitted a planning application to develop the site in Immingham, North East Lincolnshire, close to the Humber Estuary. Subject to planning and funding decisions, the plant is due to begin construction in 2021 and to start producing commercial volumes of Sustainable Aviation Fuel in 2024.

The proposed plant will take over half-a-million tonnes each year of non-recyclable everyday household and commercial solid waste destined for landfill or incineration such as meal packaging, nappies and takeaway coffee cups and convert it into cleaner burning sustainable aviation fuel.

It is claimed that the technology, built by Velocys, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% for every tonne of sustainable jet fuel that replaces a tonne of conventional fossil fuel – equivalent to taking up to 40,000 cars per year off the road.

British Airways intends to purchase jet fuel produced at the plant for use in its aircraft, an important step in the reduction of the airline’s carbon emissions towards the industry targets of carbon neutral growth from 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2050 from 2005 levels. The fuel will also improve air quality with up to 90% reduction in soot from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100% reduction in sulphur oxides; and the technology offers a lower emissions route to process UK waste than incineration or landfill.

“Sustainable fuels can be a game changer for aviation which will help power our aircraft for years to come,” says Alex Cruz, chairman and CEO of British Airways. “The submission of the planning application marks a major milestone in this project.”

British Airways’ collaboration with Velocys was first announced in Sep-2017 and is part of the airline’s plans to develop long-term, sustainable fuel options and find solutions to help reduce aviation emissions. Its parent IAG is expected to invest a total of USD400 million on alternative sustainable fuel development over the next 20 years.

Fellow investor Shell intends to purchase both jet fuel (for its aviation division) and road fuel from Altalto, which may then be blended and sold to Shell’s customers, helping to reduce their carbon footprint. Shell is also providing technical expertise into the process, based on its long experience of gasification and Fischer-Tropsch conversion that enables the production of drop-in transport fuels from the embedded carbon-sources in a variety of waste materials.