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British Airways Partnering With Solena on Renewable Jet Fuel Plant; F-T Biojet Use Targeted for 2014

British Airways, in partnership with the Solena Group, will establish Europe’s first plant for sustainable jet-fuel and plans to use the low-carbon fuel to power part of its fleet from 2014.

The plant will gasify waste biomass, and use a Fischer-Tropsch process to convert the resulting syngas to biojet fuel and bionaphtha. Bionaphtha is used as a blending component in gasoline and also as a feedstock for the petrochemicals industry. The self-contained plant, likely to be sited in east London, will convert 500,000 tonnes of waste per year into 16 million gallons of green jet fuel through a process that offers lifecycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 95% compared to fossil-fuel derived jet kerosene.

British Airways has signed a letter of intent to purchase all the fuel produced by the plant, which will be built by the Solena Group Inc., a bioenergy and biofuels company based in Washington DC.

3D Isometric cutaway view of the Solena PGV reactor. Click to enlarge.

The core of Solena’s solutions is its patented Solena Plasma Gasification (SPG) technology, which is capable of producing a synthetic fuel gas (BioSynGas) from the thermal conversion of bio-based hydrocarbons. Arcadis UK has been the lead consultant on this project.

The Solena plasma gasification vitrification (PGV) reactor operates at a temperature around 5,000 °C (9,000 °F) and can effectively cause the complete disassociation of all hydrocarbon and organic materials into their elemental compounds, which in turn is converted to syngas. The Solena gasifier locates plasma torches in the bottom of the gasifier to vitrify inorganics in the feed, forming glass aggregate—a non-leachable “plasma slag” that can be used as construction materials. A carbon-based catalyst is used to enhance gasification in the bed above the torches.

At high plasma temperature, the PGV reactor does not produce any air pollutants such as SVOCs (dioxins/furans) or NOx, tar, fly ash or flue gas. There is no ash production as all fixed carbon bonds are also depolymerized at plasma temperature. The plant will emit oxygen, plus small quantities of nitrogen, argon, steam, and CO2.

The plant itself will be CO2 neutral. The Fischer-Tropsch tail gas can be used to produce 20MW of excess electricity for export to the national grid or converted into steam to be used in a district heating system.

The overall equivalent CO2 reduction as a result of the plant producing sustainable energy and fuel is approximately 550,000 tonnes per year. This includes a 250,000 tonne saving from diverting mixed waste from landfill, 145,000 tonne lifecycle saving of the biofuel compared to fossil fuel, 86,000 tonnes from the renewable 20MW of electricity and a further 72,000 tonnes from the naphtha.

Four sites in the east of London are among those under consideration for the construction of the bio-jet fuel plant.

This unique partnership with Solena will pave the way for realizing our ambitious goal of reducing net carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. We believe it will lead to the production of a real sustainable alternative to jet kerosene. We are absolutely determined to reduce our impact on climate change and are proud to lead the way on aviation’s environmental initiatives.

—Willie Walsh, British Airways’ chief executive

The Mayor of London launched the Foodwaste to Fuel Alliance in 2009 to speed up the development of infrastructure to convert London’s food waste into fuel to cut landfill rates and carbon emissions. Every year, London produces a nearly three million tonnes of organic waste, mainly from food. Nearly two thirds of this waste is currently burnt in incinerators or buried in landfill.

The Mayor wants the Alliance, supported by London’s Waste and Recycling Board, to deliver five exemplar new bio-fuel plants in the capital by 2012.

I welcome this fantastic new “carbon lite” fuel production facility in London. City Hall has been working with British Airways and Solena to drive this project forward to help untap the massive potential to generate cleaner, less polluting energy from waste, otherwise destined for landfill. We are working to bring together more organizations in this way to harvest the capital’s rubbish to fuel homes, businesses and even transport.

—The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson


richard schumacher

Making aviation fuel is the most appropriate use for limited supplies of organic waste, because:
1. airplanes have no near-term substitute for liquid hydrocarbon fuel; and
2. aviation, the highest-value and highest-priced application, can best absorb the greater cost of non-fossil fuel.

Land transport can be partly shifted to electrified railroads, land vehicles can be partly or wholly electrified (hybrids, EVs), and marine transport can be mostly converted to other lower-carbon or non-fossil fuels.


This is why Sir Richard has invested the profits from his transportation holdings into bio fuels for 3 years. Virgin airways can use a stable fuel supply to compete. Every business that uses fuel should consider this instead of depending on OPEC.


As the waste-gas appears to be ultra-clean and contains hot air and CO2, it could simply be blown into greenhouses for heating (heat) and increased vegetable growth (CO2). This would deliver even more CO2 mitigation and extra profit. The waste-biomass of the vegetables can be returned to the fuel plant to complete the circle.


Good point Alain, the closed loop idea to reduce waste is one way to help. Once these ideas are put into action people start to see what can be done. Progress towards goals is one way to make things happen and increase more progress. The status quo has its place, but standing around while we hope something gets done rarely produces that outcome.

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