16 April 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

SAF technology ventures Velocys and FlyORO secure vital investment backing

Two SAF technology companies, UK-based Velocys and Singapore-based FlyORO, have secured significant investment funding for their respective ventures. Velocys ran into funding problems late last year when an anticipated $15 million investment was withdrawn after the company failed to secure further investment from other backers. Since then a consortium of four climate-focused investment houses based in London, New York and Singapore has acquired publicly traded Velocys for £4.1 million ($5.2m) and the company was taken private on January 18. The consortium has now injected $40 million of growth capital into Velocys. Meanwhile, Singapore-based SAF blending technology startup FlyORO has secured funding of $1.6 million after successfully closing a pre-Series A round led by venture capital firm Audacy Ventures, with participation from Asia-Pacific venture capital firm Investible and other private investors.

The new ownership consortium of Velocys which comprises Carbon Direct Capital, Lightrock, GenZero and Kibo Investments, has the combined expertise, networks and specialist scaling support that will better equip Velocys to contribute meaningfully to the decarbonisation of the aviation industry, said the company.

“The deal secures the future of Velocys, our pioneering technology and our industry leading talent, allowing us to keep our foot on the accelerator as we continue to lead the way in innovative sustainable aviation fuel solutions as we enter an inflection point for our industry,” commented Henrik Wareborn, who continues in his role as CEO of Velocys. “For the past twenty years Velocys has had a critical role in the development of reactors, technology and processes that enable the efficient production of lower carbon SAF, and we and our new partners are excited to see what the next twenty will bring.”

The company says its patented catalyst and micro-channel reactor platform provides a scalable, flexible solution suitable for projects that produce SAF, and that its Fischer-Tropsch technology is compatible with multiple project types employing diverse feedstocks, including municipal solid waste, woody biomass and CO2 and green hydrogen.

“Decarbonising the global aviation industry will require innovative solutions that can be adopted with ease and at scale,” said May Liew, Investment Director at GenZero, an investment platform company that is focused on technology- and nature-based decarbonisation solutions, and founded in 2022 by Singapore global investment company Temasek, which has a net portfolio valued at over $280 billion. “This is where Velocys’ pioneering Fischer-Tropsch reactor is relevant, with its modularity and efficiency to support the development of advanced biofuel applications.”

Josh Dienstag, Chief Investment Officer of New York-based Carbon Direct Capital, added: “Velocys is a scarce supplier with the technology-readiness, production capacity and leadership team to deliver for SAF project partners. We are pleased to be part of this investor consortium and to support Henrik and the Velocys team.”

Velocys is partnering with British Airways on the Altalto Immingham project that aims to build a commercial scale plant in north-east England that will process municipal and commercial solid waste to produce 20 million gallons per year of sustainable aviation fuel for the airline. The project received a grant award of up to £27 million ($34m) from the UK’s Department for Transport in 2022 to support completion of the Front End Engineering Design of the facility over the period from December 2022 to March 2025. In a project update in May last year, Velocys expected construction to begin in 2025, with SAF production starting in 2028.

The company also has activities in the United States, which are mainly focused on its proposed facility, Bayou Fuels, located in Mississippi, that is aiming to produce 36 million gallons per year of negative-emission transportation fuels using a combination of biogenic feedstock, biomass power and carbon capture and sequestration. Long-term offtake agreements have been established with Southwest Airlines and British Airways’ parent IAG. Last October, the company launched a new technology facility in Plain City, Ohio, that will house the reactor core assembly and catalysis operations.

Singapore-based FlyORO’s technology is based around a flexible, modular SAF blending system, called AlphaLite, situated at airports that can supply blended SAF to airlines and business aircraft operators on demand and even at late notice. The 40-foot AlphaLite module has a blending capacity of 20 kilolitres for any approved SAF technological pathway, with each blending cycle requiring just 20 to 30 minutes. This, says the company, enables a total throughput of 960,000 litres of SAF output daily, capable of serving at least 12 long-haul flights from Singapore to London each day. The modular infrastructure can be scaled up by deploying more units.

AlphaLite is backed by the company’s proprietary programming technology, which receives a regular update once every six months to increase the efficiency of its operations.

The pay-per-use service, with a tiered blending fee per litre consumed, lowers the barrier for airport fuel operators to get on board while offering additional values of control and flexibility to their airline customers, says FlyORO.

The first AlphaLite unit is now located at Jet Aviation’s fixed-base operations at Seletar Airport in Singapore, where Jet Aviation is offering SAF options to business aviation customers.

“AlphaLite empowers aircraft operators to make better informed decisions regarding SAF adoption, considering factors from cost parity to feedstock quality,” said FlyORO.

The proceeds from the pre-Series A round will be used to accelerate ongoing projects and support international expansion efforts, said FlyORO, with an initial focus on strategic initiatives in both the Australian and United States markets. The company is looking to take advantage of the SAF opportunities and incentives available in the US and target the high number of airports and private aircraft ownership.

Investor Audacy Ventures says it has already made a number of strategic SAF investments including a collaborative Australian alcohol-to-jet venture with Qantas, Airbus and LanzaJet.

“SAF plays an essential role in our global efforts to decarbonise the aviation industry,” said Toby Chan, co-founder and Partner of Hong Kong-based Audacy Ventures. “We are excited to back the FlyORO team to be an innovative enabler to the SAF supply chain and assist in scaling their modular on-demand blending solution internationally.”

Last year was pivotal for us, said FlyORO CEO Jonathan Yeo. “We launched with Jet Aviation as our SAF partner for the Singapore market in April and in just seven months we are going beyond our borders much earlier than expected. Through our fundraising journey, we have been extremely meticulous in partnering with the appropriate strategic stakeholders.”

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