First commercial waste-based biofuel flight lands in London

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
Sir Richard Branson welcomes passengers at London Gatwick. Photo credit: John Nguyen/ PA Wire

Biofuel from recycling waste carbon gases has been used on a commercial flight for the first time.

Passengers on Virgin Atlantic’s VS16 flight from Orlando to London were welcomed by Sir Richard Branson on the runway.

The Boeing 747 aircraft’s fuel was supplied by LanzaTech, which takes waste carbon-rich gasses from heavy industrial processes such as steel and turns them into ethanol.

The ethanol is then used for a range of low carbon products including jet fuel.

LanzaTech says the fuel provides 70% life cycle carbon savings compared to traditional jet fuel, and has none of the water and land use concerns associated with crop-based biofuels.

The flight follows news of a £410,000 government Future Fuels for Flight and Freight grant to determine the feasibility of building a jet fuel plant in Britain.

Virgin Atlantic is now calling on the UK government to commit to making this fuel a commercial reality in the UK.

With critical investor support, LanzaTech says it could have three UK plants running by 2025, producing up to 125m gallons of fuel per year.

This could help to decarbonise the aviation sector, support bio-economy and create thousands of clean growth jobs across the supply chain.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin group founder, said: “Long haul travel is more important than ever for connecting people around the world and it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re doing that in the most sustainable way possible.

“The LanzaTech process is important because this fuel takes waste, carbon-rich gases from industrial factories and gives them a second life – so that new fossil fuels don’t have to be taken out of the ground. This flight is a huge step forward in making this new technology a mainstream reality.”

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