4 August 2021

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Shell adds to its sustainable aviation portfolio with investment in alcohol-to-jet fuel producer LanzaJet

Oil giant Shell has become the latest investor in alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) fuel technology company LanzaJet, which has global plans to accelerate commercial-scale production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). LanzaJet was launched in June last year through a partnership by LanzaTech and the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Shell joins founding LanzaJet investors Suncor Energy, Mitsui & Co and, more recently, British Airways, along with participation from All Nippon Airways. It says the partnership is a strategic fit with its experience in the production of cellulosic ethanol from waste materials through a Brazilian joint venture and the investment marks the latest of a number of moves related to sustainable aviation development. Shell recently pulled out of an option to invest in the Velocys Altalto municipal waste to jet fuel project in north-east England, although the company has signed offtake agreements with other SAF producers and is supporting SkyNRG to develop Europe’s first dedicated SAF production plant in the Netherlands. LanzaJet said Shell’s undisclosed initial investment, similar to the phased investment approach used with the other partners, could lead to further investment opportunities as it constructs larger-scale production facilities over the coming years.

The investment comes as LanzaJet builds its first-of-a-kind commercial-scale plant, called Freedom Pines Fuels, in Georgia, USA, which will have a production capacity of 10 million gallons per year when operations begin in 2022. The company says its technology is uniquely able to produce up to 90% of its fuels as SAF, with the remaining 10% as renewable diesel. The SAF is approved to be blended up to 50% with fossil jet fuel, the maximum allowed, and LanzaJet claims its SAF product will deliver more than a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.

“At LanzaJet, we’re in a unique position with technology that is ready and scaling today to produce lower-carbon, sustainable fuels,” commented LanzaJet CEO Jimmy Samartzis. “Shell’s investment and partnership helps to further advance our work to do our part to decarbonise aviation globally, a sector with limited options in the near- and mid-term.”

He told GreenAir: “The investment gives us the opportunity to work with Shell on building commercial-scale facilities. The approach we’re taking with our strategic investors enables us to create a pipeline of projects across the globe and allows us to relatively quickly deploy our AtJ technology. As much as the news today is about Shell joining – I get equally excited, perhaps more so, about our growth plans.”

The LanzaJet process can use any source of sustainable ethanol for jet fuel production, said the company, including, but not limited to, ethanol made from recycled pollution, the core application of LanzaTech’s carbon recycling platform. “The versatility in ethanol, and a focus on low-carbon, waste-based and non-food/non-feed sources, along with ethanol’s global availability, make our technology a relevant and enduring solution for SAF,” it added.

Responded Anna Mascolo, President, Shell Aviation: “The strategic fit with LanzaJet is exciting. Through our Raizen joint venture in Brazil, we have been producing bioethanol for over 10 years and we have already demonstrated production of cellulosic ethanol from waste materials. Our access to feedstocks, experience of optimising supply chains and extensive sales and marketing business will hopefully contribute to LanzaJet creating sustainable, robust and scalable commercial operations, supporting our customers’ decarbonisation ambitions for many years to come.”

Shell said its withdrawal from the Velocys Altalto project was due to a decision to leverage its own waste-to-jet technology, called iH2, which is being developed at its Bangalore Technology Centre in India. It is also carrying out a feasibility study at its Pernis refinery in the Netherlands for a 820,000-tonne per year low-carbon fuels facility that could convert waste fats and oils into sustainable fuel for aviation and road transport, and another study into a power-to-liquid SAF plant in Germany.

The company also recently partnered with KLM and the Dutch transport ministry to produce a small amount of sustainably produced synthetic kerosene for the first-ever use of such a fuel on a commercial passenger flight (see article). It has also collaborated with Rolls-Royce on ground testing to demonstrate Rolls-Royce engines can operate with 100% SAF.

Last year, Shell announced deals with DHL Express and Amazon Air to supply the carriers with SAF, and signed offtake agreements with Red Rock, Neste, World Energy and ECB Group. It has also invested in hydrogen-electric commercial aircraft developer ZeroAvia.

Photo: Shell Aviation

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