Yesterday, British Airways (BA) announced that it has found a site for a bio-refinery that will generate up to 50,000 tons of jet fuel annually. In a partnership with the American aviation biofuel company Solena Fuels, BA will invest approximately $500 million in the plant, which will eventually provide the airline a steady source of jet fuel for a minimum of 10 years.

The GreenSky Project, which will soon break ground and become fully operational in 2015, will allow Solena to produce up to 16 million gallons of jet fuel and 40 megawatts of power. The project would also score huge achievements on the waste diversion front: 500,000 tons of waste would become diverted from landfills annually and instead become a feedstock for BA’s new stream of jet fuel.

Solena will produce the jet fuel using the company’s proprietary integrated biomass gasification to liquid process (IBGTL). Solena’s gasifiers will churn municipal waste, along with agricultural and wood waste, into jet, diesel, naptha and MGO fuels via a series of Fischer-Tropsch chemical reactions that in the end will create a greener alternative to conventional hydrocarbons. The strength of Solena’s process is that its gasification process can incorporate various forms of feedstock into a cleaner source of jet fuel. According to Forbes, the Solena-BA venture will be enough to power all flights out of London’s City Airport.

Solena and BA claim that the bio-refinery project will create 1,000 temporary construction positions and 150 jobs within the facility upon completion. The U.S. engineering and construction firm Fluor will serve as the project engineer.

With its massive investment, BA has joined other airlines that have become keen on biofuels as conventional fossil fuels continue to rock the aviation industry. United, its pre-merger competitor ContinentalAlaska, the U.S. Navy and KLM are among the organizations that have tested biofuels for their fleets of airplanes. The ability to scale and find reliable sources of feedstock are among the challenges airlines face in incorporating biofuels; in fact, once the GreenSkyProject is at full capacity, it will only provide two percent of BA’s fuel needs. But as aviation companies grapple with high jet fuel prices, the search for alternatives to petroleum will keep them focused on alternative sources of energy in order for them to remain competitive.

Published earlier today on Triple Pundit. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

Image credit: Wikipedia (Piotr Pasula)

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.