Government agrees £53m to fund development of green aviation fuel

The government has agreed a £53 million funding boost to the UK’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) industry.

Nine projects have been awarded a share of the handout in the latest round of the Department for Transport’s Advanced Fuels Fund.

The full £135 million Advanced Fuels Fund pot is designed to help companies convert waste materials and by-products – such as household waste like cooking oil and industrial gases – into fuels. 

It can also help achieve greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel, according to the DfT.

The winning projects include a demo plant converting sawmill and forestry waste and a commercial plant using power-to-liquid technology to convert CO2 and green hydrogen into plane fuel. Together, both projects could create over 70,000 tonnes of SAF a year.

As a result, the UK could soon have the capability to produce up to 810,000 tonnes of SAF – enough to fly around the equator of Earth an estimated 3,108 times.

Winning projects from both rounds – from the Orkney Islands to the north of England and South Wales – will help create up to 10,000 green jobs by 2035 and boost the economy by around £1.8 billion a year.

Project Speedbird – a joint partnership between Nova Pangaea Technologies (NPT), LanzaJet and British Airways – secured new funding totalling £9 million from the government’s fund.

The project is expected to produce SAF at full capacity by 2028, supporting progress towards the UK’s SAF mandate which will require at least 10% of jet fuel used by airlines to be made from sustainable feedstocks by 2030.

Project Speedbird will produce 102 million litres of SAF a year, cutting CO2 emissions on a net lifecycle basis by 230,000 tonnes a year, the equivalent of about 26,000 BA domestic flights.

Today’s announcement is described as a “milestone marker” ahead of the world’s first transatlantic flight using 100% SAF by Virgin Atlantic on November 28 – backed by up to £1 million in government investment.

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, will take off from Heathrow for New York’s John F Kennedy airport.

The latest SAF funding development follows criticism from Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss, who last week claimed that the UK “is really nowhere” on stimulating SAF production.  

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: “The investment we’re announcing today demonstrates our confidence in the UK’s SAF industry – creating jobs, encouraging overseas investment and levelling up communities across the whole country.

“Thanks to this government’s backing, the UK is quickly becoming a SAF superpower – ensuring people can continue to travel how they want, in a way that’s fit for the future.”

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body of Airlines UK, added: “Delivering a UK SAF industry this decade is a must if we are to drive down emissions from aviation, meet our 10% SAF mandate and reduce costs for consumers. We welcome this latest funding announcement, which will support a number of innovative projects across all parts of the UK.

“The pieces of the puzzle are coming together but more work is needed, in particular to deliver the initial plants under construction by 2025, whilst keeping overall transition costs as low as possible for passengers, so air travel can continue to be enjoyed by all in the decades to come.”

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