The first commercial flight to use jet fuel partly made from recycled industrial waste. It took off from Orlando and landed at Gatwick yesterday.

The first batch of LanzaTech jet fuel was used on a commercial flight for the very first time – Virgin Atlantic’s VS16 flight from Orlando to London Gatwick, on a Boeing 747 aircraft.

Passengers on the flight were welcomed by Sir Richard Branson, who marshalled the aircraft into stand.

LanzaTech produces next-generation advanced fuels by recycling waste industrial gases like those produced from steel-making and other heavy industrial processes. The waste, carbon-rich gases are used to first make ethanol. The ethanol can be used for a range of low-carbon products, including jet fuel.

In this case, the flight’s fuel blend was 5% recycled, but the sustainable element could eventually form up to 50%, LanzaTech says.

Scaling up

Virgin Atlantic has called for UK government backing for the fuel to be produced on a larger scale. LanzaTech says it could have three UK plants running by 2025, producing up to 125 million gallons of sustainable fuel per year – enough to fly all Virgin Atlantic’s UK outbound flights using a 50:50 mix of the fuel.

The company says that if its technology were rolled out worldwide to the world’s eligible steel mills, this alone could produce enough fuel to meet around 20% of the current commercial global aviation fuel demand.

Towards the mainstream

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group commented: “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.

“Working with LanzaTech will enable us to greatly reduce our carbon emissions and at the same time, help support UK industry. That’s why we’re excited to showcase this fuel on its first commercial flight as we plan for the world’s first full scale jet fuel plant using this amazing new technology. 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.”

Jennifer Holmgren, CEO at LanzaTech commented: “Today, with our carbon smart partner, Virgin Atlantic, we have shown that recycling waste carbon emissions into jet fuel is not impossible, that waste carbon needs to be thought as an opportunity not a liability, that carbon can be reused over and over again.  We thank all our partners and governments on both sides of the Atlantic for their support.  Together we can create the carbon future we need.”

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