13 June 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Leisure group Jet2 takes equity stake in Fulcrum’s new UK SAF plant and agrees 200m litre offtake

UK leisure travel group Jet2, which comprises Jet2holidays and airline Jet2.com, has announced an equity investment in the sustainable aviation fuel plant to be built in north-west England by US-based waste-to-fuel producer Fulcrum BioEnergy. The NorthPoint facility will be constructed in the Essar Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, and is expected to start production in 2027. Once the plant achieves full capacity, Fulcrum plans to produce about 100 million litres of SAF per year by converting 600,000 tonnes of non-recyclable household waste, which otherwise would have to be incinerated or used as landfill. While details of the investment have not been disclosed, the Leeds-based airline is expected to source more than 200 million litres of SAF from the new facility over a 15-year period, an average of 13.3 million litres per year, or two full years of production.

The new plant is a partnership between Fulcrum BioEnergy, Essar Oil UK and Stanlow Terminals, an Essar subsidiary. Late last year, after more than a decade of development, Fulcrum succeeded in converting landfill waste into low-carbon synthetic crude oil at its Sierra BioFuels facility near Reno, Nevada, the world’s first commercial-scale waste-to-fuels production facility. “Landfill waste, or household garbage, is the most abundant, lowest-cost feedstock in the renewable fuels industry, with an existing and mature infrastructure for its collection and transport, providing an excellent, long-term source of feedstock,” the company said. “Landfill waste doesn’t need to be grown and it doesn’t need to be pulled from a well. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 300 million tons of garbage is generated each year in the US. And it doesn’t have any competing uses.”

SAF will be manufactured by Fulcrum using a mix of gasification and Fischer-Tropsch conversion technologies, through which organic waste is turned into a light, confetti-like feedstock, which is then transformed into syngas, filtered to remove residual impurities and finally delivered as liquid fuel. Fulcrum will use the same patented production process at the UK plant, which it will build, own and operate within Essar’s complex, with the fuel company assisting with blending the SAF and supplying it to airlines. The project was boosted in February by a grant of £16.8 million ($21m) from the UK Department of Transport’s Advanced Fuels Fund.  

The commitment by Jet2 to Fulcrum’s UK facility follows investments in Fulcrum’s US parent by Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, BP, South Korean industrial group SK Innovation and a Japanese consortium led by industrial group Marubeni Corporation, and including Japan Airlines and the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation. The Jet2-Fulcrum deal also continues a broader trend of investments by airlines in a range of SAF production projects to help build their own future fuel security, reduce emissions from their flights and increase production to help drive down the cost of SAF.

Jet2 said the SAF produced at Fulcrum’s new facility initially is expected to achieve lifecycle emissions reductions of 70% compared to fossil-based aircraft fuel. By using the UK-made SAF, Jet2.com expects to reduce its net emissions by about 400,000 tonnes of CO2 over the 15-year term of the supply deal, on top of other decarbonising measures including orders and options for up to 146 Airbus A320 and A321 neo jets. These aircraft are significantly more fuel-efficient than the airline’s current fleet, comprised mainly of Boeing 737-800s. Further efficiencies are expected to flow from the new plant’s close proximity to Manchester Airport, a major gateway for the airline, the UK’s third largest, enabling the SAF to be delivered via existing pipeline infrastructure instead of by road transport.

“Travel and tourism is a force for good and, like all industries, we know how critical it is to mitigate our climate impacts,” said Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2 Holidays. “This significant investment in Fulcrum NorthPoint’s sustainable aviation fuel production in the UK shows not only how seriously we take that responsibility but also how committed we are to taking tangible actions to address it. This type of investment is critical if we are to get this technology up to the scale required to decarbonise the industry. Our investment is a very clear demonstration that we are backing SAF and the UK production of SAF early.”

Although the UK government had provided a grant to help develop the Northpoint plant, Heapy argued even more backing was needed. “We are calling on the government to scale up its level of ambition and support for SAF production,” he said. “Doing this will help achieve decarbonisation of the aviation sector, stimulate uptake and seize the enormous economic opportunity here in the UK.”

Jeff Ovens, Managing Director of Fulcrum BioEnergy UK, welcomed the Jet2 project-level investment as “a clear commitment to the development of a UK SAF industry.”

Graphic: Illustration of the future Fulcrum NorthPoint SAF plant

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