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British Airways scraps £350m green fuels project

06 January 2016

British Airways (BA) and Solena Fuels announced last year they would implement plans to build a new facility called GreenSky to turn landfill waste into green jet fuel at the ex-oil refinery in Thurrock, Essex, but on January 6 the airline said the project had been abandoned. Some 150 workers were expected to staff the plant, which BA had committed to pay £35m each year for a decade.

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BA planned to turn 575,000 tonnes of household waste into gas from 2017, producing sufficient green fuel to make carbon savings equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off the road. 

In a statement given to Biofuels International, BA said: "British Airways is fully committed to supporting sustainable alternative fuels production in the UK. However, its partnership with Solena Fuels has ended. We're very disappointed that, despite BA's commitment to the project, Solena was unable to progress it through to construction.

"BA is currently speaking to other companies to develop waste-derived bio-fuel projects. The Government needs to support innovative aviation biofuels projects such as this if they are to progress. We gave our full support to Solena Fuels for a number of years and were fully committed to making the GreenSky project a success.

"Several factors contributed to its failure to progress the project including falling oil prices, lack of policy support for such projects in the UK and Solena Fuel's inability to progress the project to the satisfaction of investors."

Solena, a US-based company, filed for bankruptcy three months ago. BA wanted jet biofuels brought under the government's Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, a move it believed could help trigger the building of a dozen green fuel plants by 2030.

The Guardian quoted a BA spokeswoman as saying: “The government needs to support innovative aviation biofuels projects such as this if they are to progress. Aviation fuels are not eligible for incentives that road transport fuels receive, making it difficult to build a business case to invest in UK aviation fuels projects. This affects investor confidence.”

Aviation is the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide emissions, currently thought to be responsible for around 5% of global warming by scientists at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

New market mechanisms to green the industry will be debated at an International Civil Aviation Organisation conference later this year. The Guardian said use of second-generation biofuels to power jets is widely seen as one of the most promising technologies.


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