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A commercial plane fuelled by recycled waste just made it across the Atlantic

A Boeing 747 just flew across the Atlantic partially powered by fuel made from waste carbon gas.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson met the flight as it touched down in London. Flight VS16 from Orlando to London Gatwick was operated by a Boeing 747, and could mark the beginning of change in an industry known for its damaging emissions.

The new fuel, developed by LanzaTech, recycles waste carbon gas emissions from industrial processes like steel making. These carbon-rich waste gases are captured and used them to make ethanol, which is then used to create various low-carbon products including jet fuel.

The process of turning ethanol into jet fuel was developed in collaboration with the US Department of Energy and Pacific Northwest National Lab. The fuel has been extensively tested and is approved for use in a 50 per cent mix with conventional fuel.

By 2025, up to 125 million gallons of LanzaTech fuel could be produced annually by proposed plants in the UK. This would fuel 100 per cent of Virgin Atlantic flights coming out of Britain, preventing the release of nearly one million tonnes of CO2 per year.

“This flight is a huge step forward in making this new technology a mainstream reality,” Branson said in a press release.

Using all the world’s eligible steel mills, the technology could meet up to 20 per cent of global demand for aviation fuel. The fuel has at least 70 per cent life cycle carbon savings and does not compete with other critical industries for land or water.

“The LanzaTech process is important because this fuel takes waste, carbon-rich gases from industrial factories and gives them a second life – so that new fossil fuels don’t have to be taken out of the ground,” Branson said.

LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren added, “We have shown that recycling waste carbon emissions into jet fuel is not impossible, that waste carbon needs to be thought as an opportunity not a liability, that carbon can be reused over and over again,” said LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren.”

Sheila Remes, Vice President of Strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, also commented on the success of the test flight.

“Not only does this project demonstrate how air transport can grow sustainably, it sets the stage for expanding commercial availability of new sustainable aviation fuels,” Remes said.

Because the LanzaTech fuel is made from an affordable waste product, it even has the potential to compete with current fossil fuels in terms of price, making it a truly viable option for companies.

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