On October 2, 2018, history was made! The world’s first commercial flight using ground-breaking sustainable aviation fuel, produced at a LanzaTech facility in Georgia, made from recycled waste carbon gases flew from Orlando, Florida to London, England. The flight was a key milestone on the trajectory to renewable jet fuel.

Many of those who made this technology and trip possible—LanzaTech, the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Virgin Atlantic, and others—gathered in Orlando to observe this momentous occasion in time for bioenergy research and development. This flight was years in the making and could not have happened without great minds in science, business, government, and industry coming together to create alternative jet fuel that could serve consumers, provide economic opportunities, and capture carbon for a second use.

Innovative Technology

The Virgin Atlantic Airline Boeing 747 flight was made possible because of advanced carbon recycling technology created by LanzaTech, which converts waste carbon gases into ethanol and chemicals. PNNL, in collaboration with LanzaTech, researched and developed catalysts and process technology to convert ethanol into jet fuel suitable for current airplanes. This sustainable jet fuel can now be used to help power airplanes in a blend with conventional jet fuel.

LanzaTech had previously gained American Society for Testing and Materials approval for their sustainable jet fuel to be used in commercial aircraft at up to a 50% blend with petroleum-based aviation fuel. The jet fuel blend burns cleaner emitting less CO2 across the lifecycle of the fuel and uses less petroleum than traditional jet fuel.

With the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), PNNL and its partner LanzaTech are at the forefront of converting waste carbon into jet fuel, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

Successful Partnership

This global collaboration between PNNL, LanzaTech, Virgin Atlantic, and other industry and government partners has created an efficient, sustainable jet fuel that has the potential to change the course of commercial aviation for years to come. Waste carbon is proving to be a beneficial source of cleaner-burning jet fuel.

BETO supports early-stage research and development for biobased fuels, products, and chemicals that can maximize the use of abundant U.S. biomass resources, including cellulosic biomass, algae, and wastes, to advance U.S. economic competitiveness in global energy markets and enhance U.S. energy security.