British Airways and Solena Fuels' GreenSky London project is set to build the world's first facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel at the Thames Enterprise Park in Essex. The location is part of the site of a former oil refinery and has existing fuel storage facilities and transport links.
“Approximately 575,000 tonnes of post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration, will instead be converted into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuels using Solena's innovative integrated technology,” says a British Airways press release.
The airline has committed to purchase all 50,000 tons per annum of the jet fuel produced at market competitive rates for the next 11 years ($550 million at today's prices). British Airways will also provide construction capital and be a minority shareholder in GreenSky.
“By putting our money where our mouth is, we are going to demonstrate not just to people in the UK but to people globally that you can produce a sustainable biofuel for the airline industry. I think this is a game-changer,” said Willi Walsh, Chief Executive IAG (parent company of BA) in a video released by the airline.
Solena will use its patented high-temperature plasma gasification technology to convert the waste into synthetic gas, which will then be converted into liquid hydrocarbons.
"We are excited to help British Airways achieve its sustainability goals by providing an innovative solution to produce drop-in jet fuel. We anticipate starting construction of the site in approximately 12 months after all the requisite permits and agreements have been obtained," said Robert Do, president and CEO of Solena Fuels.
The facility will be completed by 2017 and will require a thousand workers to build it, creating up to 150 permanent jobs. Thames Enterprise Park and neighboring Thames Oilport, a joint venture of Shell, Vopak and Greenergy, has the latter as the site project facilitator.
"This is an ideal site for a biofuel initiative like Solena's and we are very pleased to be associated with it,” Andrew Owens, Chief Executive of Greenergy, said in the release. “It is located on the Thames with fuel storage and fuel pipelines and good road, rail and jetty infrastructure. Thames Enterprise Park's main goal is to provide regeneration of the former Coryton oil refinery following its closure in 2012. The facility proposed by British Airways and Solena is exactly the type of high-profile technology project both we and Thurrock Council want to attract to the site, particularly given the number of skilled jobs provided.”
Other airlines are also looking at advancing the large-scale use and manufacturing of biofuels to power their flight — Lufthansa is working with Algae.Tec Limited for the construction of a large-scale algae-to-aviation biofuels production facility; Virgin Atlantic has partnered with LanzaTech to produce jet fuel from waste gas; and in 2013, KLM announced operation of its transatlantic flights using a biofuel mixture while South African Airways teamed up with Boeing to develop and implement a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain.