Farnborough Air Show

British Airways, Solena team on bio jet-A plant

 - July 19, 2010, 8:55 AM

Plans by British Airways and U.S. energy solutions company Solena Group to establish Europe’s first sustainable jet-fuel plant–dubbed “GreenSky”–are being outlined here at the Farnborough airshow by the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), which claims to lead the development, testing, environmental acceptance, qualification and deployment of alternative aviation fuels.

The CAAFI (Hall 3 Stand A9a) presentation offers an “in-depth look [at] carbon-neutral growth for aviation as an emerging reality and a new sustainable fuel dynamic for aviation buyers.”

Solena plans to build a self-contained plant in east London to convert 500,000 metric tons of waste per year into some 16 million gallons of fuel. From 2014, British Airways plans to power some of its aircraft using low-carbon fuel derived from waste biomass otherwise destined for landfill. The airline says this is “more than twice the amount required to make all [our] flights at London City Airport carbon-neutral.”

Fischer Tropsch Process
Waste biomass fed into Solena’s high-temperature gasifier will create synthetic “fuel gas” from the thermal conversion of hydrocarbons. Bio fuel and bio-naphtha, used in petroleum blending and as a petrochemical feedstock, will be produced through the Fischer Tropsch process.

Solena said the conversion method offers “lifecycle greenhouse-gas savings of up to 95 percent, compared to fossil-fuel derived jet kerosene.” The bio fuel involves a 50-percent blend of jet-A kerosene.

Tail gas arising from the conversion process can be used to produce 20 megawatts of electricity to feed the UK national power grid or to provide steam for a neighborhood heating system. The only solid waste would be an inert vitrified slag material for use as an alternative to construction aggregates, while the plant will be carbon-dioxide neutral, according to British Airways.

The project will avoid production of methane that otherwise would arise from the biomass being consigned to landfill and also could reduce local-authority landfill tax bills that by 2014 are expected to be £72 per metric ton ($100/U.S. short ton). British Airways acknowledged it would emit oxygen, plus small quantities of nitrogen, argon, steam (water vapor) and carbon dioxide. Earlier this year, the airline announced it had signed a letter of intent to buy the plant’s entire output.

According to British Airways, the program will contribute to its goal of halving net carbon emissions by 2050. “We believe it will lead to a sustainable alternative to kerosene. We are determined to reduce our impact on climate change,” said the carrier.

Dr. Robert Do, Solena Group chairman and CEO, is scheduled to present details of the scheme at the CAAFI stand at 1:30 p.m. today.