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Virgin Atlantic to co-develop biofuel

By Hpanchal on October 12, 2011

Officials for Virgin Atlantic Airways announced their plans to develop an alternative jet fuel with half of the carbon emissions of standard fuels. Once complete, the biofuel will be utilized on Virgin Atlantic’s routes from Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow Airport, a company spokesman said.

Virgin Atlantic is currently partnering with the New Zealand-based biotechnology firm LanzaTech to develop the biofuel, which captures, ferments and chemically converts industrial steel emissions utilizing Swedish Biofuels’ alternative fuel technology. Not only will this technology reduce emissions on commercial flights, it will also prevent the waste gas from turning into carbon dioxide as it burns, the Virgin Atlantic spokesman said.

Although the technology is currently being engineered at a facility in New Zealand, it will be tested in Shanghai later this year. China will also play host to the commercial operation of the technology, expected by 2015, the spokesman said. “Following successful implementation, a wider roll out could include operations in the U.K. and the rest of the world,” he projected.

To Virgin Atlantic President Sir Richard Branson, the implications for this technology are numerous. “With oil running out, it’s 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,” he said in a statement. “This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel.”

Virgin Atlantic’s initiative has also received praise from Boeing officials, who will be instrumental in getting this technology off the ground. “Boeing is proud to support this important partnership between Virgin Atlantic, LanzaTech and Swedish Biofuels,” Bill Glover, Boeing’s vice president of environmental strategy and aviation policy, said in a statement. “[We] will be playing a key role in supporting the approval process, drawing upon our extensive experience in sustainable biofuel development.”

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