Friday 28th October 2016                 Change text size:

Virgin Skies: Branson’s airline announce bio-fuelled jets to be flying within the next few years

Virgin Skies: Branson’s airline announce bio-fuelled jets to be flying within the next few years

Photo: Dean MorleyVirgin Atlantic is to form a partnership with Boeing and LanzaTech to produce and utilise carbon absorbing fuel. Rob Steadman looks into it.

It was announced earlier this month that Sir Richard Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic, will be using ‘green’ fuels within the next few years.

Some experts see Biofuels, produced from a wide variety of plants and crops, as an effective way to protect the environment.

The news comes in the light of Gatwick Airport chairman, Sir David Rowlands’ comments, who called for aviation companies to be proactive in attempting to reduce carbon emissions.

Virgin Atlantic will be partnering with New Zealand based biofuel producer LanzaTech, who were recently included on the 2011 Cleantech 100 for the second year in a row.

They will also be working along with Swedish Biofuels and Boeing in order to start fuelling jets on their routes to Shanghai and Delhi.

Virgin Atlantic – currently the eighth largest UK airline based on passenger figures – consider the move to be, “a breakthrough in aviation fuel technology”, and announced the partnership as LanzaTech pilot the new fuel in New Zealand, with facilities also being set up in India and China.  

The method of production involves capturing waste gases from steel production that are then fermented and chemically converted, using Swedish Biofuels technology, into a jet fuel. This process recycles waste gases that would otherwise be burnt into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, which would contribute to the global climate change problem.

Speaking of the partnership Sir Richard Branson claimed, “This partnership to produce a next generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited about the savings that this technology could help us achieve.”

CEO of LanzaTech Jennifer Holmgren stated, “This technology will enable airlines to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by reusing gases that would otherwise have been emitted directly into the atmosphere.

While there is still work to be done and logistical hurdles to cross, we have excellent partners in Virgin Atlantic, Swedish Biofuels and Boeing and we are confident that we will have a facility with the capacity to produce fuel for commercial use by 2014.”

Virgin Atlantic foresees that the use of biofuel will allow them to achieve their pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 30%, per passenger km (the product of the distance a vehicle travels times the number of occupants travelling that distance), by 2020.

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