Virgin Plans Flights Using Fuel from Industrial Waste

Virgin Atlantic Airways has announced plans to fly commercial routes using a waste-based, synthetic gas fuel that produces half the carbon emissions of the typical jet fuel. Using technologies developed by partners LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels, Virgin says it will capture and chemically treat gas waste from industrial steel production facilities into an ethanol that can be be converted into jet fuel. The company plans to run test flights in New Zealand within the next 18 months and begin commercial operations in China by 2014. LanzaTech, a New Zealand-based biotechnology firm, estimates that the process will be able to utilize gas waste from 65 percent of the world’s steel mills. In addition to using waste that would otherwise be burned, the technology would not rely on agricultural biofuels that could drive up global food costs. “With oil running out, it is important that new fuel solutions are sustainable,” said Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, “and with the steel industry alone able to deliver over 15 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, the potential is very exciting.”