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From bin bags to planes: Shell, BA plan EU's first waste-to-jet fuel plant

Aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions but this is predicted to grow as air travel increases, at a time when nations are seeking to limit emissions to curb climate change.

FILE: British Airways aircraft. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Aeroplanes could be powered by jet fuel made from household rubbish from 2024 under plans by Shell, British Airways and Velocys to build Europe’s first large-scale plant to produce jet fuel from domestic and commercial waste.

Aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions but this is predicted to grow as air travel increases, at a time when nations are seeking to limit emissions to curb climate change.

The aviation industry has a target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 compared with 2005 levels and sees the emergence of lower-carbon biofuels as a vital step to meeting this goal.

Shell, BA and Velocys - who have applied for planning permission for the plant from local authorities in North East Lincolnshire - are targeting domestic or commercial black bag waste that would otherwise end up in landfills or incinerators.

Waste-to-energy is already commonly used in the power sector, where household rubbish such as food or grass cuttings are burned to create electricity.

“Sustainable fuels can be a game-changer for aviation which will help power our aircraft for years to come,” said British Airways Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Cruz.

Construction on the Altalto Immingham project, near the Humber Estuary in the northeast of England, could begin in 2021 with the site producing commercial volumes of sustainable aviation fuel three years later. Altalto Immingham Ltd is a subsidiary of fuel technology firm Velocys.

A planning decision by the North East Lincolnshire Council is expected by the end of November.

The three companies have invested a combined 7.3 million pounds ($8.8 million) in the project so far, which is ultimately expected to cost hundreds of millions of pounds to build.

The British government has also provided almost 0.5 million pounds of funding for the project which could create around 130 permanent jobs.

British Airways and Shell will also purchase the biofuel produced, which emits around 70% less greenhouse gases compared with the fossil fuel equivalent, Velocys said.

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