U.S. energy group Solena is accelerating its efforts to establish a plant in the London area that from 2014 could be turning 500,000 metric tons of domestic waste into jet fuel each year. Its GreenSky program has already attracted its first customer in British Airways, which has committed to buying the new factory’s complete annual output as part of its goal to halve its total carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The carrier has said that the initial output from Solena should produce enough fuel to operate all of its flights out of London City Airport.
The process involves putting biomass made from waste into high-temperature gasifiers to create a synthetic “fuel gas” from the thermal conversion of hydrocarbons. Biofuel will be made from this “fuel gas,” which will be blended with 50-percent jet-A kerosene. Gases arising from the conversion process will be used to generate electricity or steam for heating systems. The process also promises to reduce landfill bills for local communities and avoid generating the methane that results from landfills.
Meanwhile, British Airways and Rolls-Royce have invited fuel suppliers to participate in tests to evaluate alternative aviation fuels in a study to seek practical alternatives to jet-A. The two companies have requested samples for possible laboratory and rig trials and, ultimately, tests on a Rolls-Royce RB211-524G engine from a British Airways Boeing 747-400. If sufficient volumes of candidate fuels become available, tests would be carried out on a Rolls-Royce indoor engine testbed in the UK, which would generate more accurate data.