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Virgin, LanzaTech Low-Carbon Jet Fuel Earns Sustainability Certification

VirginBiofuel developer LanzaTech has become the first company in the world to have its jet fuel certified by the independent Roundtable on Sustainable Biomass, moving its partnership with airline Virgin Atlantic forward in the process.

Beijing Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Science & Technology has earned RSB’s sustainability certification for the joint venture’s facility that converts waste steel mill gases to sustainable biofuels. The RSB is a global sustainability standard and certification system for biofuels and biomaterials production.

The facility, which utilizes LanzaTech technology, is the first RSB-certified biofuel plant in China, and the first of its kind anywhere to receive this key certification for industrial carbon capture and utilization, Lanzatech says.

Virgin Atlantic and LanzaTech teamed up in 2011 produce a low-carbon aviation fuel with at least half the carbon footprint of the standard, fossil-fuel alternative, kerosene.

Having been the first airline to launch a biofuel-powered flight, Virgin calls the project “an exciting next step,” and one of its strategies to achieve its target of 30 percent carbon reduction per revenue metric ton kilometer by 2020.

Through a fermentation process, much like that of brewing beer, LanzaTech’s patented technology uses a microbe to convert waste carbon monoxide gases from steel mills into ethanol, an alcohol.  The alcohol produced is then converted to jet fuel through a second stage process. In this way, gases from industrial steel production that would otherwise be flared off into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, are recycled instead.

LanzaTech estimates that its process can apply to 65 percent of the world’s steel mills, offering the potential for the fuel to be rolled out for worldwide commercial use. Virgin says it hopes that the technology can be retrofitted to European facilities, as well as other facilities worldwide.

If all these steel mills are converted to produce fuel this way, the process could provide 19 percent of the whole industry’s current jet fuel demand, Virgin says.

Virgin hopes to have planes powered by the fuel in the air in 2014.

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