• Sally Gethin

Jet Zero Council announced by Grant Shapps

Updated: Jun 13

A new initiative to spur sustainable aviation has been announced by UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

At the Westminster daily briefing he referred to the Jet Zero council designed to launch the first carbon neutral aircraft into transatlantic service “within a generation”.

Shapps said the government was backing a project involving Velocys.

Velocys announced today it had received planning permission from a local council to build the first UK sustainable aviation fuels plant - which is pivotal to Jet Zero.

In partnership with British Airways and Shell International Petroleum, Velocys will convert hundreds of thousands of tonnes per year of non-recyclable everyday household and commercial waste, otherwise destined for landfill or incineration, into cleaner burning sustainable aviation fuel.

The fuel offers net greenhouse gas savings of around 70percent for each tonne of conventional jet fuel it displaces. It would also improve air quality, with up to 90percent reduction in particulate matter (soot) from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100percent reduction in sulphur oxides.

Velocys will build its SAF plant in Lincolnshire. Velocys subsidiary company Altalto Immingham Limited applied for planning permission last year. Local council North East Lincolnshire gave the go-ahead 20th May as it will create 130 permanent skilled jobs.

Construction is targeted to begin in 2022, and the facility could be producing fuel from 2025.

Aviation Minister Kelly Tolhurst said 20th May: “It’s great to see the industry leading the way in creating new technologies to help achieve our target of net zero emissions by 2050, while also bringing new jobs to the local area.

“Innovative technologies – like the development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels – firms up the UK’s position as a leader in aviation, and shows the determination the industry has in continuing to operate, but in a more environmentally-friendly way.”

Henrik Wareborn, CEO at Velocys, said: “It’s fantastic news that the Planning Committee has approved our waste-to-jet-fuel project, which will be a first for the UK. Sustainable aviation fuels are essential for decarbonising this challenging sector and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. That’s why Velocys are calling on the government to co-ordinate policy between departments to help us fund a fleet of world leading sustainable aviation fuel facilities in the UK.”

In February, British Airways announced that the plant would power its fleet when the new waste-to-jet fuel plant starts production in 2024. Parent company IAG has committed $400M in the coming 20 years in its Flightpath Net Zero 2050 programme.

In the month before lockdown the airline stated, “By 2025, more than 50percent of our fleet will be more fuel-efficient aircraft. Modern, fuel efficient aircraft are 20percent to 40percent more fuel efficient than the aircraft they replace. We have retired older aircraft, including the 757 and 767 fleets, and the last of our 747 aircraft will retire in 2024.”

With the pandemic all but halting travel worldwide, the exit strategy for the B747 looks set to be closer than planned.

Another initiative integral to the Jet Zero Council is a propulsion technology involving academia.

The new National Centre for Propulsion and Power announced by Cambridge University institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and the University of Cambridge Whittle Laboratory is due to open in 2022 with funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute.

CISL will work with the new Centre to decarbonise the aviation sector to net zero by 2050.

The Centre aims to accelerate development at least 10 times faster and cheaper towards ultra-low emission aircraft and low carbon power generation. The aim is to deliver around 80 per cent of the UK’s future aerodynamic technology needs.

Today's government announcement aligns with current thinking and activities in the aviation industry, which has ramped up its carbon neutral initiatives in recent years.

Airlines UK representing the airlines industry, signalled its support. CEO Tim Alderslade said, "It’s an excellent initiative and the Transport Secretary should be applauded for demonstrating such a willingness to work with the aviation industry to achieve our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. There are huge opportunities for the UK to be a world-leader in sustainable aviation fuels production and electric aviation, creating thousands of high-skilled jobs and major export opportunities in the process. It’s a win-win for all of our regions who will stand to gain from this and for the UK’s decarbonisation efforts, and we’re looking forward to taking part.”

Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee, representing more than 50 airports in the UK said, “The creation of this advisory body will help to ensure Government and Industry work in partnership to make net zero carbon emissions for the aviation industry a reality.

“Funding for sustainable aviation fuels will help to pump-prime an entirely new industry, generating new jobs and economic growth, while reducing emissions from international aviation.

“UK airports are doing all they can to reduce the carbon emissions from the operation on the ground, the announcement today will help industry meet its commitments in the sky as well.”


"The challenge is to make transport…

Currently our biggest emitter of greenhouse gases…

Part of the solution, not the problem.

Take the aviation sector, which has had an impossible few months…

Yet, despite the obvious challenges, there’s a real determination within the industry to have a greener restart.

So we’re bringing together leaders from aviation, environmental groups and government…

To form the Jet Zero Council.

This group will be charged with making net zero emissions possible for future flights.

Our goal – within a generation – will be to demonstrate flight across the Atlantic, without harming the environment…

And today we’re backing a company called Velocys who are building a plant for aviation biofuels in Lincolnshire.

I’m also excited about a Cambridge University and Whittle Labs project to accelerate technologies for zero carbon flight."

Picture credits: main picture - British Airways repatriation flight over India, inset picture: model of the Altalto Immingham plant for sustainable aviation fuels

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