Carbon Engineering and LanzaTech UK want to produce more than 100 million litres of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), made from atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), annually.

The duo on Monday (26th July) unveiled such ambitions as part of a new agreement which will look to develop a large-scale, commercial air-to-jet facility to produce the fuel before the end of the decade in the UK.

Dubbed Project AtmosFUEL, the project is already gaining support, and is one of eight projects shortlisted for the UK Department for Transport’s Green Fuels Green Skies Competition that will share £15m in government funding to support plant development.

LanzaTech and Carbon Engineering, however, are not the only one involved in the plans. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have also expressed plans to work with the duo and examine how recycled atmospheric CO2 can be transformed into the ultra-low carbon jet fuel. 

Integrating two proven technologies, the plans will see Carbon Engineering’s direct air capture (DAC) technology capture CO2 from the atmosphere. After this step, the CO2 will then be fed into LanzaTech’s Gas Fermentation process to produce low carbon ethanol.  

The ethanol will be converted into SAF using the LanzaJetTM Alcohol-To-Jet technology, developed by LanzaTech and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“Using DAC to make SAF presents an opportunity for unprecedented scale, a key factor when the greatest challenge we face as an industry is getting the volumes of fuel we need into planes as soon as possible,” said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.

“We applaud the UK Government’s continued leadership role in creating opportunities for bringing recycled carbon into the supply chain to enable achieving net zero.”

Once created, the fuel will undergo certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Materials, globally recognised as the most robust approach to sustainability for the bio-based and circular economy.

It is believed that by recycling existing atmospheric CO2, the SAF produced will offer a more than 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. Due to an unlimited feedstock – atmospheric CO2 – the solution can be scaled up to deliver large-scale quantities of SAF to help meet the UK’s 10% SAF by 2030 and up to 75% SAF by 2050 proposals.

On this, Amy Ruddock, Vice-President of Europe at Carbon Engineering, said, “Aviation is going to be one of the most difficult industries to decarbonise, and sustainable fuel solutions are poised to play a key role in supporting the industry’s energy transition.”

“We’re pleased to see the UK Government investing in critical SAF solutions and are grateful for this funding support. These types of first-of-a-kind facilities will position the UK as a world leader in advanced low carbon jet fuel breakthroughs and will deliver significant emissions reductions and rippling economic benefits.”

Commenting on Virgin Atlantic’s involvement, Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, added, “We are delighted that the atmosFUEL project has been recognised by the GFGS programme and very much look forward to working with our sustainable aviation fuels partners LanzaTech and Carbon Engineering on this programme. 

“The involvement of two leading UK airlines as partners in this project reflects how important it is to support such innovation and the role airlines play in developing a UK-based sustainable aviation fuels production capability.  We very much look forward to working with our partners over the coming months.”

Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and CEO, concluded, “We’re determined to transform the sustainability of our industry and this proposed funding from the Government’s Green Fuels, Green Skies competition is critical in helping us to show the feasibility of building sustainable aviation fuel plants.”

“These plants would be a game-changer for our industry, not only delivering sustainable aviation fuel, but also creating many hundreds of highly skilled jobs while increasing economic growth around the UK. Our parent company, IAG, was the first European airline group to commit to powering 10% of flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030 – purchasing one million tonnes of SAF each year, equivalent to taking a million cars off Europe’s roads every year.”