Fossil-free synthetic aviation fuel (SAF) developer Zero Petroleum is scaling up its net zero goals after signing a deal with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to research the viability of new fuel technology as a replacement to fossil fuels.

Founded and run by former Formula One team Technical Director Paddy Lowe, Zero Petroleum has developed its synthetic ZERO SynAVGAS and ZERO SynAVTUR fuels as a direct drop-in replacement for existing fossil-based aviation fuels. 

Holding the potential to decarbonise the notoriously hard-to-abate aviation sector, the synthetic fuel formed the core component of a world record breaking event undertaken between the partners last year. 

Read more: Zero Petroleum and RAF complete world’s first net-zero synthetic fuel flight

In November, Zero Petroleum worked with the RAF to achieve the Guinness World Records title of ‘First aircraft powered by synthetic fuel’ with a round-trip flight out of Cotswolf Airport. 

Speaking earlier in the year to gasworld in a world exclusive, Lowe stated that he believes synthetic fuels will be fundamental in the energy transition. 

The fossil-free fuel is produced by combining electricity produced from renewable sources with hydrogen extracted from water and carbon dioxide (CO2) captured directly from the atmosphere. 

“The RAF’s vision for fossil-free flight using synthetic fuels is matched by Zero Petroleum’s commitment and enthusiasm to deliver the solution using unique British technology,” commented Lowe. 

“We are incredibly excited to start now on the important development of this technology to production readiness in advance of deployment at scale to flight operations.” 

A prototype of Zero Petroleum’s automotive fuel, ZERO Syn95 has since become the first fully synthetic fuel to power a motorbike, having been demonstrated earlier this year at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. 

Slated to last for two years, the company’s latest stage of development alongside the RAF will culminate with a fast-jet test flight within 18 months and a squadron-level scale-up within 3-4 years.

Commenting on the project, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, said, ”This ground-breaking collaboration with Zero Petorleum is a gllimpse of the future for aviation fuel.”

“It points to how we will crack the net zero challenge as a national and international endeavour, and the leading role the RAF and UK science and technology cna play in that.”

As part of its plans to work towards the Government’s Net Zero by 2050 goal, the RAF plans to establish its first net zero airbase by 2025.