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Virgin Atlantic Announces World First in Race to Develop New Sustainable Aviation Fuel

  • Monday, 24 September 2018 11:07


September 13, 2018

By Richard Branson

Virgin has always been at the forefront of disruptive new technology and ideas, which help us do business differently and champion change. As an airline reducing carbon is a major priority at Virgin Atlantic, and we’ve already taken a number of steps to reduce CO2 emissions, including investing in our latest, new A350-1000 aircraft. 

Now I’m excited to reveal that Virgin Atlantic’s low carbon fuel partnership with LanzaTech has taken a vital step forward. This October we will make history by using LanzaTech’s innovative new sustainable aviation fuel in a commercial flight for the first time.

The fuel will be used in one of our much-loved 747s on a flight from Orlando to London Gatwick, demonstrating the art of the possible, and taking a landmark leap towards making this ground-breaking new low carbon technology a mainstream reality.

The appetite for long haul travel is only getting bigger, and as airlines it’s our responsibility to deliver that in the most sustainable way possible. Since 2011, Virgin Atlantic has been working with LanzaTech to pioneer technology that captures and recycles carbon-rich industrial waste gases from steel mills into ethanol – gases that would otherwise go up the chimney into the atmosphere. The ethanol, in turn, can be used for a variety of low carbon products, including jet fuel.

Because it uses waste carbon, the LanzaTech jet fuel has a fantastic sustainability profile and has the potential to achieve >70 per cent lower carbon emissions compared to regular fossil jet, and no land or food competition issues. And because it uses a plentiful, affordable waste stream, this is set to keep the fuel price competitive with that of traditional jet. This means airlines like Virgin Atlantic will be able to buy and fly it routinely, and that is when the big carbon savings will come. 

The future potential of this technology is enormous. LanzaTech estimates its process could be retrofitted to 65 per cent of the world’s steel mills, to produce nearly one fifth of all aviation fuel used each year, at a commercially viable price.

This exciting first flight is all about showing we’re ready for business. We are working with LanzaTech to turn this new fuel into a day-to-day reality, and want to secure the world’s first carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) commercial jet fuel production facility in the UK.

We’ve had some great support from the UK government so far. But we now need to turn this into firm government action on incentives and investor commitment, to help us accelerate towards building the world’s first full size plant producing jet fuel from waste carbon gases. 

We are delighted to be able to use this flight to raise awareness, thank all our partners so far and call on others to help turn this tantalising tipping point into an exciting breakthrough in our joint fight against climate change. Head over to Virgin Atlantic and LanzaTech to keep up to date.

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