EfW plants 'close' to being used for aviation fuel

In a response to a report released by the Department for Transport (DfT), it has been suggested that energy-from-waste (EfW) is close to being diverted to make aviation fuel in an attempt to decarbonise the aviation industry – a pursuit known as ‘Jet Zero’.

Energy-from-waste close to becoming a feedstock for aviation fuelThe original independent report – Developing a UK sustainable aviation fuel industry – was conducted by Philip New, former CEO of the Energy Systems Catapult and BP Alternative Energy. Commissioned by the Department for Transport, it assesses what conditions are necessary to create a successful UK sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) industry and sets out a number of recommendations.

The government defines SAF as specific fuels made from ‘sustainable’ wastes or residues (excluding segregated oils and fats such as used cooking oils and tallow) or renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs). These fuels are awarded two development fuel certificates per litre eq. of eligible fuel supplied.

Philip New found that the UK has the potential to play a leading role in the development and deployment of SAF made from carbon-containing waste streams, a technology he said is ‘close to deployment readiness’.

The Government responded that its priority is to promote wastes that have limited economic value for use as transport fuels in accordance with the waste hierarchy. It has also committed to broadening the fuel feedstock pool to include the fossil portion of residual municipal solid waste and certain industrial waste gases (e.g. hydrogen sulfide released through wastewater treatment). The response states that it plans to release a full policy position on SAF in the coming months, which can be expected to include a broadening of the primary powers underpinning the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) and SAF mandate. The Government has also tabled an amendment to the Energy Bill which adjusts the Energy Act 2004 to allow both recycled carbon fuels (RCFs) and nuclear-derived fuels to be supported under renewable transport fuel orders.

The government response was released yesterday (17 April) as a part of a two-year government plan by the Jet Zero Council to support the wider target of reaching Jet Zero by 2050. The Government has outlined the work already underway and announced over £1 million in funding for research into accelerating the development of liquid hydrogen aviation technology.

The Jet Zero Council is made up of industry, academic and government leaders committed to working to speed up the design, manufacture, and rollout of zero-emission aircraft and vital infrastructure at UK airports. The Council, which created the two-year plan, hopes to accelerate the production of SAF.

The £165 million Advanced Fuel Fund (AAF) is another government initiative to develop SAF, with five projects having been chosen so far to receive funding, four of which plan to use either refuse-derived fuel or waste industrial gases. 

SAF is already in use in other industries today, with 26 million litres of SAF being supplied in the UK last year, mostly from crops and or food waste. A recent independent analysis conducted for Sustainable Aviation forecasted the potential for around 60,000 jobs to be created from the UK SAF industry by 2050.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper commented: “This government is a determined partner to the aviation industry – helping accelerate new technology and fuels, modernise their operations, and work internationally to remove barriers to progress.

“Together, we can set aviation up for success, continue harnessing its huge social and economic benefits, and ensure it remains a core part of the UK’s sustainable economic future.”

Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps said: “Having launched the Jet Zero Strategy last summer, I am thrilled to now support the launch of today’s new 2-year action plan to future-proof the aviation industry and accelerate the delivery of new green jobs.

“Boosting investment in sustainable aviation fuels is at the heart of these plans today, marking a landmark step in spearheading the technologies that will keep passengers flying guilt-free.”

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