British Airways biofuel plant set to open in 2015

It appears that a British Airways jet biofuel plant known as the GreenSky project is set for take off by 2015 with the airline recently announcing that it has committed to buy the 50,000 ton output of the facility at market-competitive prices over a 10-year period. The deal had originally been announced back in 2010 with US based Solena who would construct a biofuel plant in East London by 2014.  The plant would then produce 16 million gallons of jet fuel annually from 500,000 tons of waste that would otherwise end up in British landfills. That’s enough biofuel to power all of British Airways flights from London City Airport. 

Forbes contributor Peter Kelly-Detwiler has written some detail about the process known as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis that will be used to make the jet biofuel. That process was discovered some 90 years ago by German scientists and involves converting a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide into liquid fuels. During World War II, the process was used to keep the German war effort going (accounting for an estimated 9% of German war production of fuels and 25% of the automobile fuel) and later it was used by South Africa when it was under sanctions during the apartheid era.

The facility itself will be the first of its type in the UK and British Airways chief executive Keith Williams says it will help the airline achieve its vision of making sustainable aviation fuel a reality by 2015. In addition, the plant is part of British Airways’ goal to have “Carbon Neutral” growth from 2020 with biofuels making up 2% of the company’s fuel.

British Airways is not the only airline looking into biofuels as KLM, Lufthansa and United Airlines are also apparently taking the plunge as well. No word on when biofuel may start powering British general aviation, but certainly the GreenSky project is a step towards more sustainable commercial aviation.

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