A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 will become the first in commercial flight history to use recycled waste gas as fuel.
The low-carbon aviation fuel is an outcome of a collaboration between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and its industrial partner, LanzaTech.
LanzaTech developed a unique carbon recycling technology that operates similarly to traditional fermentation but instead of using sugars and yeast to make alcohol, uses industrial waste carbon-rich gases such as ethanol.
The ethanol can be used for a range of low carbon products, including alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) which is now eligible to be used in commercial flights at up to 50% blends with conventional jet fuel.
PNNL helped develop a unique catalytic process and proprietary catalyst to upgrade the ethanol to (ATJ-SPK).
The catalyst removes oxygen from the ethanol in the form of water, and then combines the remaining hydrocarbon molecules to form chains large enough for jet fuel without forming aromatics that lead to soot when burned.
LanzaTech was responsible for scaling up the technology to ensure that ethanol could be converted to 4000 gallons of ATJ-SPK at LanzaTech’s Freedom Pines facility in Georgia.
The Freedom Pines site is also the location for a planned facility that will be capable of converting millions of gallons of sustainable ethanol into low carbon jet and diesel fuels per year.
Image and content: Virgin Atlantic/PNNL