British Airways to buy jet fuel from city waste

LONDON (Reuters) - British Airways will start sourcing a small portion of its jet fuel from municipal waste from 2014, under a deal with U.S.-based biofuel company Solena Group, the two companies announced on Monday.

British Airways, one of the top three airlines in Europe, said it had signed a deal to purchase all the “sustainable jet fuel” that Solena could make from a plant expected to be sited in London and operational from 2014.

The plant would convert 500,000 tonnes of waste annually into 16 million gallons of green jet fuel, which the two companies calculated would reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared with burning normal jet fuel, also called kerosene.

A British Airways spokesman declined to comment on the value of the deal, and added that the volume of biofuel used would be equivalent to 2 percent of the airline’s operation now at Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport near London.

British Airways aimed to obtain 10 percent of all its jet fuel from this waste-to-energy process by 2050, he said.

Kerosene is made from crude oil and emits the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when burned.

Municipal waste can emit a powerful greenhouse gas methane if it is left to rot in dumps, and the companies therefore calculated a climate change benefit from transforming the rubbish into a liquid fuel and burning it instead.

Such technologies have become popular as governments reward the generation of fuel and power from low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels, including livestock manure and crop residues, wood chips, and food and municipal waste.

British Airways cited research estimating that each year London produced nearly three million tonnes of organic waste, mainly from food.

The aviation fuel will be produced from gasification of the waste into a so-called syngas which is then converted by the Fischer Tropsch process into liquid fuel.

“Projects like this demonstrate that the technology is viable,” said Stephen Didcott from ARCADIS, the Netherlands-based consultants on construction of the plant.

Reporting by Gerard Wynn; editing by James Jukwey