There are many potential sources of sustainable alternative fuels for use in aviation. While much of the focus has traditionally been on biofuels made from organic feedstocks, a less publicised source of alternative fuels is industrial waste. Converting waste products into fuel is advantageous because it makes use of material which would otherwise be expelled straight into the atmosphere or put into landfill, allowing airlines to create a use from the consequential carbon.
This is precisely what a US based company, LanzaTech, is doing with waste gas produced by various heavy industries. LanzaTech are able to capture the carbon monoxide produced as a by-product in these industrial processes and convert it into jet fuel. ‘Carbon capture and reuse’ technology is a step on from carbon capture storage in the sense that it uses the carbon captured, rather than simply storing it. The process itself involves capturing the waste gas, creating alcohols through gas fermentation, then converting it into jet fuel through dehydration, oligomerization and hydrogenation.
To commercialise this technology, LanzaTech have gone into partnership with Virgin Atlantic, who aim to use the fuel on two routes by the end of 2015. If this innovative solution is able to be replicated on a large scale, it could prove a valuable contribution to aviation’s sustainable alternative fuels mix and play a part in helping the aviation industry achieve its carbon reduction goals. With recent investment being pledged by HSBC, it is quite possible that these fuels will become far more common in the future.