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UK airline British Airways is planning to operate transatlantic flights partially powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as early as next year, the company announced on 9 February.

BA said it would be investing in a new plant in Georgia, USA, to be built by sustainable jet fuel company LanzaJet. The new facility would produce commercial-scale volumes of SAF made from ethanol derived from agricultural and other waste.

The fuel would create 70% fewer carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel, the BA statement said.

Due to begin construction this year, the new Georgia plant would convert sustainable ethanol (a chemical compound widely blended with petrol to reduce its carbon intensity) into SAF using a patented chemical process.

Meanwhile, Dutch airline KLM announced on 8 February that it had used sustainable synthetic kerosene on a commercial flight from Amsterdam to Madrid. Shell had produced 500 litres of the sustainable synthetic kerosene from CO₂ and water using renewable energy sources, the KLM statement said.

In its statement, BA said the development and use of SAFs was a major focus for the company and formed part of its commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The airline had an existing partnership with sustainable fuels technology company Velocys, with the goal of building a facility to convert household and commercial waste into SAF in the UK. Fuel could be produced in the UK by 2025.

BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), would be investing US$400M in SAF in the next 20 years, the company said.

“Progressing the development and commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuel is crucial to decarbonising the aviation industry and this partnership with LanzaJet shows the progress British Airways is making as we continue on our journey to net zero,” BA CEO Sean Doyle said.

“Following the successful start-up of the Georgia plant, we hope to then deploy the technology and SAF production capacity in the UK. The UK has the experience and resources needed to become a global leader in the deployment of such sustainable aviation fuel production facilities, and we need government support to drive decarbonisation and accelerate the realisation of this vision.”

LanzaJet was launched in June 2020 and is a spin-off from biotech company LanzaTech. BA would be joining LanzaTech, Mitsui and Suncor Energy as investors in LanzaJet.

With the addition of BA, LanzaJet planned to develop a further four larger scale plants operating from 2025, producing SAF and renewable diesel made from sustainable feedstocks. It was hoped that some or all of these plants would be built in the UK subject to improved government policy support for waste-based sustainable aviation fuels, BA said.