Virgin Atlantic plans to use a low-carbon jet fuel derived from waste gases released from steel production by 2014.
Developed in conjunction with LanzaTech, Virgin Atlantic will capture waste gases from industrial production, then chemically convert them for use as jet fuel. Currently being piloted in New Zealand, a larger demonstration plant will be commissioned in Shanghai, later this year. Virgin aims to complete a demo flight using the new fuel in 12 to 18 months’ time.
“Following successful implementation, a wider roll-out could include operations in the UK and the rest of the world,” the air carrier said in a statement.
“With oil running out, it is important that new fuel solutions are sustainable, and with the steel industry alone able to deliver over 15 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, the potential is very exciting,” said Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic.
Aviation will be included in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme from January 1, 2012, when the sector faces a cap on emissions and will start paying for the CO2 emitted.
Lufthansa started a six-month trial in July, using a mix of regular fuel and biofuel made by Neste Oil from jatropha and camelina crops and animal fats. British Airways is also aiming to start powering its fleet using a fuel derived from waste by 2015.
Biofuels were once seen as a silver bullet for curbing transport emissions, based on the theory that they only emit as much carbon as they absorb during growth.
Virgin said its new fuel based on waste gases should avoid such problems and take the airline beyond its pledge to cut 30 percent of CO2 per passenger-kilometre by 2020.