Virgin Atlantic Produces Green Jet Fuel, Will Reduce 65% Carbon Emission
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IN BRIEF: Virgin Atlantic aims on reducing the pollution caused by its aircrafts. In order to find an alternative source of energy, Virgin Atlantic has collaborated with US-based Company Lanzatech. Lanzatech is well known for its specialization in low carbon fuel production. The result of this five-year partnership between these two companies is the production of 1,500 gallons of jet fuel. This jet fuel is produced from ‘Lanzanol’, Lanzatech’s low-carbon ethanol.

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The production of the jet fuel is considered a major scientific breakthrough in the aviation field. This is because the constant emission of carbon by the aircrafts is a major reason to worry. This breakthrough might also result in the decrease of demand for fuel oils by the aviation companies. Demand for alternative sources of energy was never focused on as the prices of kerosene have dropped since 2014.

The process of acquiring Green jet fuel

This green jet fuel attained from ‘Lanzanol’ is acquired from a fermentation process with alcohol. ‘Lanzanol’ was produced in China at the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials-certified demonstration center in Shougang. This was further converted to jet fuel using a process developed alongside the Pacific Northwest National Lab and the US Department of Energy. Virgin Atlantic announced the production of this green fuel and aims on using it in commercial aircrafts by next year. Testing for the same is under process and also special aircraft might be designed to support this fuel. Virgin also announced that within two to three years it is planning flights with this new fuel. The routes followed will be from Shanghai and Delhi to Heathrow as Lanzatech develops facilities in China and India.

How beneficial is it for the environment?

This technology is currently being tested in New Zealand after which a larger demonstration will be planned in Shanghai. The process of the production of this jet fuel also helps in reducing the pollutants emitted by steel mills. This involves waste gases from industrial steel production being captured, fermented and chemically converted using Swedish Biofuels technology. Initial tests show that the Lanzanol fuel might result in 65 percent less carbon emission than conventional jet fuels. This can prove to be a turning point in the field of sustainable energy. On the other hand, the carbon emissions by the steel mills can be captured for this process. This will result in one-third of the emission being captured which would bring down the pollution levels drastically.

According to Lanzatech, around 65 percent of steel mills can be involved in this process. This would help the company produce 30 billion gallons of Lanzanol annually. This can be the raw product to create 15 billion gallons cleaner burning jet fuel. The given quantity is enough to replace one-fifth of the aviation fuel used yearly worldwide. Climate and aviation specialists believe that other aviation company should also take similar initiatives. It is important to realize that sustainable and low-carbon fuels will be impactful for a healthier environment in the future.

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5 Comments

  • Bren Sommer says:

    The least they could’ve done, but better late than never.

  • Janice Wimberly says:

    I’d be surprised if the volumes add up. It makes sense to start with jet fuel, as electric aircraft like Airbus’ trainer are still experimental and it’s very uncertain whether they will ever be feasible for long-haul. We will need jet fuel for decades to come, and possibly always. Competitive mass-production ground evs are on the horizon, perhaps only 5 years away, 10 at most.

  • Arthur Rodriguez says:

    The rush will soon be due to superior drivability, and improved ICE’s won’t make as big a difference. You’ll need large amounts of CO to make the fuel, unlikely to be enough to impact EVs.

  • Alwin Clarke says:

    Air travel contributes only a few percentage points to CO2 emissions. Even if you could make all jet fuel using the output of steel mills (seems unlikely, though I haven’t researched), there is not enough output to make fuel for the overwhelmingly larger number of cars.

    Maybe some technology will come along to convert solar or wind energy to biofuel on a mass scale, but it’s hard to imagine it will be cheaper or more efficient than simply using batteries. Burning fuel only puts 25-30% of the energy into moving the car – the rest is wasted as heat. So making fuel from electricity rather than using electricity directly has enormous efficiency problems. It’s worse: gas is 17-21% efficient, batteries are 59-62%. And remember, you can’t convert electricity to biofuel with 100% efficiency so you lose energy there too.

    We’re very close to reaching manufacturing cost parity for EVs and ICEVs. It’s all about falling battery prices. And battery prices are likely to continue falling so that it becomes less expensive to manufacture an EV than a same feature ICEV. If that happens not only would the fuel need to become cheaper per mile than driving with electricity? It would have to become adequately cheaper to offset a higher vehicle purchase price.

  • Susan Scott says:

    CO2 emissions of steel can be quite big, at about 1.6-2.2 tons CO2/ton SS.
    Total Steel Production including crude steel is about 1.6 Billion ton/year in 2014. That means CO2 emissions of about 3.2 Billion tons/year. I am trying to calculate how much available jet fuel can theoretically be produced by the entire steel industry. There’s a lot of direct information lacking, so we can infer based on assumptions from the few clues. Now the statement “Virgin Atlantic claims that the new jet fuel could result in carbon savings of up to 65%, as compared to conventional jet fuel, going by
    initial testing.” If we assume this to mean savings of 65% carbon overall from stainless steel, and not from the airlines, we can say that 65% of the carbon wastes are recovered into jet fuel. Of course, their statement could be an overhyped PR and may just be the theoretical overall carbon savings of Virgin Atlantic, but let us proceed with the most optimistic assumption.

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