24 September 2023

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Air New Zealand and NZ government choose US producers Fulcrum and LanzaJet for SAF trials

Air New Zealand and the New Zealand government have shortlisted two US-based renewable fuel providers, Fulcrum BioEnergy and LanzaJet, the latter in combination with LanzaTech, to conduct feasibility studies for the local production of sustainable aviation fuel, using solid waste as a feedstock. Following proposals last year from multiple international SAF producers, the airline and the government will jointly invest over NZ$2.2 million (US$1.35m) to evaluate the technical, economic, supply chain and environmental feasibility of production pathways offered by the two providers. LanzaTech transforms waste raw materials into low-carbon ethanol, which LanzaJet then converts into SAF through its alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) process, while Fulcrum converts landfill waste to low-carbon fuel through a combination of gasification and Fischer-Tropsch conversion technologies.

The selection of the two SAF producers was announced during the launch of New Zealand’s draft Tourism Environment Action Plan, designed to help reduce the emissions of country’s tourism sector, and adapt it to the challenges of climate change.

“Air New Zealand has a significant role to play in transitioning our economy to a lower-carbon future,” said the airline’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Kiri Hannifin. “Flying with SAF is a key part of this transition.”

Because New Zealand is geographically remote and heavily reliant on long-haul aviation, plentiful access to affordable SAF is considered critical. But because the fuel is in short supply globally and currently can only be sourced offshore, support is strong in New Zealand for local SAF production.

“Our climate is worsening at a rate far faster than predicted,” said Hannifin. “We all need to take immediate and drastic action to protect what we love, including our land, and all that depends on her. Commercially producing SAF in New Zealand would not only help to lower the country’s emissions while creating jobs, regional economic development and Maori and Iwi [indigenous] investment opportunities, but also provide energy security and energy independence, which is something New Zealand doesn’t have.”  

Air New Zealand is targeting net zero emissions by 2050 through initiatives including SAF use and the introduction of electric or hydrogen-powered regional aircraft, with at least one of the new propulsion technologies targeted for entry into commercial service as early as 2026. The airline has also committed that SAF will comprise 10% of its total jet fuel consumption by 2030, and last year imported its first supplies from European company Neste, which produces the fuel from waste fats, oils and greases.

The selection of the two US companies followed a year-long request for proposals from renewable fuel companies to demonstrate how they would viably establish and operate SAF plants at commercial scale in New Zealand. Evaluation of the two shortlisted companies is due to conclude early next year, with Air New Zealand committing over NZ$1.5 million (US$934,000) and the government NZ$765,000 (US$476,000) towards the dual assessments.

Jimmy Samartzis, Founding CEO of LanzaJet, said : “A sustainable fuels industry enables countries to gain energy independence with domestic production of fuels alongside infrastructure and economic development, while having a positive benefit on climate change – and that’s what we’re looking to enable in New Zealand.”

Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of Chicago-headquartered LanzaTech, which was founded in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2005, added: “We appreciate the leadership shown by Air New Zealand and the New Zealand government in enabling a future where domestic wastes and residues can be meaningfully repurposed, enabling energy security and regional growth opportunities.”

Focused mainly on forestry residues for the New Zealand project, LanzaTech will use its gas fermentation technology to transform waste into low-carbon ethanol, which will then be converted into SAF by LanzaJet, through its scaled-up AtJ process. The two will be supported by Z Energy, New Zealand’s largest retailer of fuel, to evaluate the SAF supply chain, including options for fuel feedstocks and economic impacts in regional areas.

Fulcrum BioEnergy transforms landfill waste to renewable fuels including SAF, by converting organic waste to “light, confetti-like feedstock”, which through gasification is converted to syngas, before being produced through the Fischer-Tropsch process into renewable fuel.

Late last year, at its Sierra BioFuels plant in the US, the company produced the first low-carbon fuel from converted landfill waste, which it claimed cleared the way for commercial production of up to 400 million gallons of renewable fuel per year. Among the company’s investors and customers are Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, Japan Airlines, bp and World Fuel Services, plus Japanese industrial group Marubeni Corporation.

Photo: Air New Zealand

Print Friendly, PDF & Email