Vowing to halve its carbon footprint, Virgin Atlantic Airways has announced it plans to begin flying commercial routes by 2014 using a waste gas-based jet fuel.
LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels – partners in the green aviation waste fuel venture – report they are creating this new fuel by capturing, fermenting and chemically converting waste gases from industrial steel production. Virgin Atlantic adds this refining process recycles gases that are typically burned and released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, adding that this overcomes many of the controversial land use issues often associated with producing biofuels.
This development is expected to take the airline beyond its pledge of a 30 percent carbon reduction per passenger kilometer by 2020.
The partners are piloting the technology in New Zealand, and plan to launch a larger demonstration facility in Shanghai this year. Following that, the airline’s first commercial flight will be scheduled in China by 2014.
Of note, Virgin Atlantic is the first company to use this fuel, and plans a demonstration flight within 18 months. If the demonstration flights are successful, the airline will commence scheduling commercial from Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow. After that, other international routes will be scheduled.
LanzaTech estimates that its process could apply to 65 percent of the world’s steel mills. The process can also apply to metals processing and chemical industries, growing its potential considerably further, the company said.
Virgin, LanzaTech, Swedish Biofuels and Boeing are working towards achieving the technical approval required for using new fuel types in commercial aircraft.
As reported today by Environmental Leader, Virgin Atlantic was the first commercial airline to test a bio-fuel flight, according to its president, Sir Richard Branson. In 2008 the company flew one of its Boeing 747 jumbo jets from London to Amsterdam on a biofuel composed of babassu oil and coconut oil.
Tony Tyler, head of the International Air Transport Association and former chief executive of Cathay Pacific, was reported by the New York Times to be “amazed” at the progress made with aviation biofuels. Only a few years ago, he added, the idea of powering planes with biofuel seemed “very pie-in-the-sky and futuristic.” But today, he said, “I believe that the most significant leap forward in the industry’s environmental performance in the coming years will be the commercial use of sustainable biofuels.”
A writer, producer and director, Meyers is editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.