Wizz Air-backed biofuels firm to convert human waste into sustainable aviation fuel

A UK biofuels firm backed by Wizz Air has developed a process to convert human waste into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Firefly Green Fuels aims to build a pilot production facility in Harwich in Essex by 2027 followed by a commercial-scale site by 2029 after securing agreements with a range of partners.

This will lead to a “first-of-a-kind” commercial refinery involving several UK locations where airports, pipeline terminals and wastewater treatment works are in close proximity.

The company aims to be producing SAF commercially in the UK before 2030.

Firefly said: “Processed human sewage is a globally available resource that carries tremendous potential to support the decarbonisation efforts of aviation.

“Firefly’s novel route to SAF utilises a difficult to dispose, abundant waste feedstock – sewage sludge.”

Independent analysis by Cranfield University has shown that Firefly’s SAF offers a “highly significant” 92% CO2 saving versus fossil jet fuel.

Budget carrier Wizz Air acquired a 25% stake in Firefly for £5 million last year to secure SAF worth almost $1 billion over 15 years, “recognising this huge carbon saving potential”.

Firefly aims to supply up to 525,000 tonnes of SAF over the 15 years to the airline in the UK from 2028 as Wizz Air disclosed a new aspiration to power 10% of its flights with new-generation fuel by 2030.

Firefly chief executive James Hygate said: “The signing of these agreements marks a significant leap forward in realising our ambitions to develop a sustainable SAF industry here in the UK.

“Opening up this new sewage pathway will bring new jobs and growth to the UK, helping us to secure a greener and more prosperous future.”

Wizz Air corporate and ESG officer Yvonne Moynihan described SAF as a “core component” to the airline’s sustainability strategy. 

She said: “Our investment in Firefly, which has the potential to reduce our lifecycle emissions by 100,000 tonnes CO2 per year, underscores our commitment to mainstream the use of SAF in our operations by 2030. 

“However, achieving our aspiration requires a significant ramp-up of SAF production and deployment. Therefore, we call on policymakers to address barriers to SAF deployment at scale by incentivising production, providing price support, and embracing additional sustainable feedstocks for biofuel production.”

She added: “Since 2023, Wizz Air has actively supported Firefly fuels through investment, and we are optimistic that this partnership will drive progress within the industry, bringing us closer to affordable and accessible SAF options for all. 

“We are convinced that industry collaboration in the development of alternative fuels is a crucial step in addressing the climate crisis. Our unwavering dedication remains focused on reducing our carbon intensity by 25% by 2030.”

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