Virgin Atlantic Low Carbon Fuel Test Flights Next Year

September 16, 2016

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Virgin Atlantic and technology partner LanzaTech have moved a stage nearer to developing a commercially viable low carbon jet fuel with the production of an initial 1,500 US gallons.

The fuel, produced from waste gases, will be used for flight testing next year.

The LanzaTech process involves capturing carbon from the carbon monoxide (CO) gas by-product from steel production. It is fermented to ethanol which is recovered to produce ethanol feedstock for a variety of products, including aviation fuel.

Each gallon of ethanol is then converted to produce 1/2 gallon of aviation fuel.

The process could be used to capture and recycle around 1/3 of the carbon that steel facilities would otherwise release into the atmosphere, Virgin Atlantic said.

LanzaTech estimates that its process could be fitted to 65 percent of the world’s steel mills, offering the potential to produce 30 billion gallons of ethanol and around 15 billion gallons of jet fuel a year.

That would represent just under a fifth of the aviation fuel currently used worldwide each year it said.

Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson said: “This is a real game changer for aviation and could significantly reduce the industry’s reliance on oil within our lifetime”.

Following successful testing, the data collected will be used to seek approval for use on commercial flights.