Within the next two to three years, Virgin Atlantic's aircraft flying London Heathrow to Shanghai and Delhi routes could be using low-carbon aviation fuel crafted from waste gases in steel production.
That scenario could emerge from a Virgin partnership with LanzaTech, which uses Swedish Biofuels technology to capture, ferment and convert the waste gases from steel production into carbon-footprint reducing biofuel.
LanzaTech is currently piloting the steel-waste gas conversion process in New Zealand, plans to kick off a larger demonstration project in Shanghai this year, and to open a full-fledged commercial operation in China by 2014.
And, as LanzaTech and partners develop commercial operations in China and India, Virgin says it envisions using the low-carbon fuel on its Shanghai and Delhi to London Heathrow routes within the next two to three years.
Virgin has pledged a 30% reduction in carbon usage per passenger kilometer by 2020 and believes its LanzaTech partnership may enable the airline to exceed its sustainability goal.
"We were the first commercial airline to test a bio-fuel flight and we continue to lead the airline industry as the pioneer of sustainable aviation," says Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic president. "This partnership to produce a next-generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited ahout the savings that this technology could help us achieve."
Virgin is working closely with LanzaTech, Swedish Biofuels and Boeing on technical approvals to use the new fuel type on commercial aircraft and plans a demo flight within the next 18 months, the airline says.
The LanzaTech process is not limited to the steel industry and can be used in others, such as oil refining and chemical production, as well, the company says.
Here's a video about the technology:
The LanzaTech Process from VirtuMedia on Vimeo.