Breakthrough Energy, a specialist vehicle created by technology billionaire Bill Gates to expedite the transition to clean energy, has awarded $50 million to US-based renewable fuels company LanzaJet, which plans to produce the world’s first alcohol-to-jet sustainable aviation fuel from next year at its Freedom Pines Fuels plant in Soperton, Georgia. The grant is the first provided through the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst programme, which unites corporate and philanthropic groups to help fund new commercial-scale decarbonisation projects. Once it is fully operational, Freedom Pines is expected to deliver 9 million gallons of SAF and 1 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel per year. LanzaJet is also planning to develop other major SAF production plants in North America, Europe and Asia, which it says will eventually have a combined capacity to produce more than 1 billion gallons of SAF per year.
The Catalyst programme initially is focused on four technology pillars – SAF, long-duration energy storage, green hydrogen and direct air capture. Rodi Guidero, Executive Director of Breakthrough Energy, and Managing Partner of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, said LanzaJet’s new SAF plant could be a key contributor to lower-emission air transport, while also demonstrating how jobs and businesses of the clean energy sector could support communities. “Breakthrough Energy Catalyst is a new way for the private sector to accelerate the green energy transition by funding projects that will ensure essential climate solutions get to market on the timeline the world needs,” he stated.
Breakthrough said ground-breaking projects for emerging technologies often encountered difficulty accessing low-cost capital because they had “high green premiums” and faced unexpected challenges and costs, particularly in the current high inflation environment. “By providing capital to these types of early commercial facilities, Catalyst funding can reduce risk for follow-on investments and accelerate the deployment of clean technologies,” the company said. “In this case, Freedom Pines Fuels’ Catalyst grant filled a funding gap and will enable the plant to maintain its current development timeline.
“Importantly, the grant will also spur further SAF innovation by helping create a new market for scaleable, low-carbon ethanol from sustainable sources by setting the expectation that the plant will transition to second-generation ethanol, including from waste-based feedstocks, by its fifth year. This transition will complement work LanzaJet is already doing to build SAF plants using second-generation ethanol in the UK, and develop strategic partnerships to accelerate the advanced fuel’s development, of which there is currently little supply in the market.”
Guidero added: “We’re grateful to Catalyst’s partners, who understand climate leadership means supporting the technologies that will eliminate emissions, and that solving our climate challenges will require nothing less than mobilising the world’s economic engine to build a net-zero future.”
Welcoming the grant, LanzaJet CEO Jimmy Samartzis said: “To maximise our impact and scale our technology to deliver significant quantities of sustainable aviation fuel worldwide, partnerships matter. We have a real opportunity on our doorstep to significantly scale up and globally deploy our technology, and we wouldn’t be able to build this plant as quickly or affordably without Breakthrough Energy’s Catalyst grant, which reduced our total cost of capital and is critical to reducing emissions and accelerating the pace of bringing SAF to the global market.”
LanzaJet’s Freedom Pines Fuels facility has already attracted funding from the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund and the US Department of Energy, in addition to investments from shareholders including Mitsui & Co, Suncor Energy, LanzaTech, British Airways and Shell. The grant from Breakthrough Energy Catalyst also coincides with US government initiatives to expedite the production of SAF, including tax credits to kickstart production as part of the newly-introduced Inflation Reduction Act, which additionally features a $297 million grant programme designed to scale up clean aviation technologies, including SAF.
The US initiatives also form part of its newly-released ‘Flight Plan for Sustainable Aviation Fuel’, which sets ambitious production targets of 3 billion gallons per year by 2030, and 35 billion gallons per year by 2050, compared to just 5 million gallons last year. The US report also highlights a requirement for more than 400 biorefineries and 1 billion tons of biomass or gaseous carbon dioxide feedstock in order to meet steep decarbonisation estimates for 2050. “This makes widescale production and use of SAF the highest impact near-term strategy for significantly reducing aviation emissions and achieving the nation’s net zero emission goals for aviation by 2050,” it concluded.