British Airways has made an investment in sustainable fuel, announcing plans to develop Europe’s first plant to turn household and commercial solid waste into fuel.

Altalto Immingham Limited, a subsidiary of renewable fuels company Velocys and a collaboration with BA and Shell, has submitted a planning application to develop a site in Immingham, north east Lincolnshire, close to the Humber Estuary.

The plant would be designed to take more than half-a-million tonnes per year of non-recyclable household and commercial solid waste that would normally be sent to landfill or incineration, such as meal packaging, nappies and takeaway coffee cups and convert it into “cleaner burning” aviation fuel, according to BA.

Velocys claims the technology will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent for every tonne of sustainable jet fuel that replaces the equivalent conventional fossil fuel – equivalent to taking up to 40,000 cars off the road.

BA says it intends to purchase fuel produced at the plant for use in its aircraft. According to the airline, the move is a step in its effort to reduce its carbon emissions as the aviation industry targets carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and a 50 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2050.

The airline also claims the fuel will result in a 90 per cent reduction in soot from aircraft engine exhausts and a nearly 100 per cent decrease in sulphur oxides, which can cause eye, lung and throat irritation.

The announcement comes after calls from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for 1 billion passengers globally to travel on flights operated using sustainable fuel by 2025. Airlines have denounced an EU-commissioned report that claimed taxing aviation fuel would lead to a reduction in carbon emissions by saying the better option would be to develop regulation that provides incentives for carriers to use sustainable fuel.

BA CEO Alex Cruz commented: “The submission of the planning application marks a major milestone in this project and we are delighted with the progress being made. Sustainable fuels can be a game changer for aviation, which will help power our aircraft for years to come. This development is an important step in the reduction of our carbon emissions and meeting the industry targets… It also brings the UK another step closer to becoming a global leader in sustainable aviation fuels.”

Jonathan Counsell, head of sustainability at BA owner International Airlines Group (IAG), said: “This is a fantastic step forward for the project. We strongly welcome the inclusion of sustainable aviation fuels into the renewable transport fuels policy framework and call on government to continue to provide support given the significant near-term opportunities offered by these fuels.

“Specifically, we strong believe a dedicated Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (OSAF) will provide the essential cross-government co-ordination necessary to progress the development and commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuel and would welcome government support in setting this up at the earliest opportunity.”

IAG says it is investing US$400 million into the development of sustainable fuel over the next 20 years.

Velocys CEO Henrik Wareborn added: “This will cut greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, as well as improving air quality and helping to tackle our waste problem. This is a vital step towards the ultimate goal of living in a net zero carbon world by the middle of the century.”;

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