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Aerospace

Project Speedbird secures £9m UK Government funding

Project Speedbird – a joint partnership between Nova Pangaea Technologies (NPT), LanzaJet and British Airways (BA) – has secured new funding totalling £9 million from the Government’s Advanced Fuels Fund (AFF) competition, moving the UK a step closer to aviation decarbonisation.



Above: Nova Pangaea Technologies factory.
Courtesy British Airways

NPT, a Teesside-based cleantech company developing advanced biofuels used to produce Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), was awarded £7.5 million as part of the partnership and LanzaJet, the world’s leading ethanol to SAF technology company and sustainable fuels producer, will receive £1.5 million. It is hoped that the funding will help establish the UK as a world-leader in SAF production and the decarbonisation of aviation.

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It follows the multimillion-pound investments from International Airlines Group (IAG) and British Airways earlier this year into NPT and Project Speedbird, respectively. IAG – British Airways’ parent company – is also a founding investor and shareholder of LanzaJet dating back to 2021.

Technological innovation

The SAF will be developed using a combination of NPT’s innovative technology, which converts agricultural waste and wood residue feedstocks into second-generation biofuels such as ethanol, and LanzaJet’s proprietary technology that converts ethanol into SAF. The NPT ethanol will be initially processed into SAF using LanzaJet’s Alcohol to Jet (ATJ) plant in Georgia, USA - the first of its kind in the world - prior to Project Speedbird’s own larger ATJ facility, planned to be built in the UK by 2027. British Airways is intending to purchase all the SAF produced through Project Speedbird to help power some of its flights.

Project Speedbird will produce 102 million litres of SAF per year, which will reduce CO2 emissions, on a net lifecycle basis, by 230,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of approximately 26,000 British Airways domestic flights.
Project Speedbird will produce SAF at full capacity by 2028, supporting progress towards the UK’s SAF mandate which will require at least 10% of jet fuel used by airlines to be made from sustainable feedstocks by 2030.

Sarah Ellerby, Chief Executive of Nova Pangaea Technologies, said: “Nova Pangaea Technologies are delighted to have secured this multi-million-pound investment. With support from the Government, and in partnership with British Airways and LanzaJet, we can now accelerate our next phase of development and the commercialisation of our technology, to help take the UK one step closer to becoming a global leader in SAF.

“Our first commercial-scale production facility will be the first of its kind in the UK, and will use wood residues and non-food derived agricultural waste as its feedstocks. Our partnership, Project Speedbird, will play a transformational role in decarbonising the aviation sector, as well as providing local employment opportunities in the North East.”

Carrie Harris, Director of Sustainability at British Airways, said: “Sustainable aviation fuel will play a critical role in meeting our net zero targets and is currently the only realistic low carbon solution for long-haul flights, so it is vital that we continue to invest and develop SAF technology in order to create enough supply. We welcome the government's investment and continued support in Project Speedbird which represents landmark new technology for UK SAF supply.  The UK has the potential to become a leader in the production of SAF, and this pioneering project is one step closer to this becoming a reality and a big moment for British Airways and UK SAF production more generally."   

Jimmy Samartzis, Chief Executive Officer at LanzaJet, said: “The aviation industry has set ambitious and necessary targets to address the urgency of climate change, and this next generation of sustainable aviation fuels will be critical to meeting the industry’s goals. Project Speedbird is a tremendous example of what it takes to scale the industry and meet this moment. Government support like this is critical in facilitating that growth and we’re thrilled to be working with exceptional partners like Nova Pangaea Technologies and British Airways – making sure these goals become reality.”

NPT is one of several companies in the UK preparing to contribute towards the country’s domestic SAF production, which would help the industry decarbonise. The UK’s SAF mandate requires at least 10% jet fuel to be made from sustainable feedstocks by 2030. This represents 1.2 million tonnes of fuel (1.5 billion litres). Total global production of SAF in 2022 was estimated by IATA to be 450 million litres at a maximum (300-450 million litre range). This means that total global supply would have to more than triple just to meet the UK's mandate. Facilities like the one Nova Pangaea Technologies is constructing in Teesside will be vital in meeting this demand.

Second-generation biofuels: Unlike other methods of ethanol production, NPT’s REFNOVA process creates second generation biofuels which is produced from residual and waste products, as opposed to first-generation biofuels which are typically produced from crops.

NPT’s technology is feedstock agnostic, which de-risks their supply chain and future proofs the production of second-generation ethanol. Residues from sawmills and forestry operations will come from UK sawmills and include sawdust and other wood trimmings. Agricultural waste, including wheat straw and corn stover, are mostly left on the fields after harvests and used for fodder or landfill material.

Based in Teesside, NPT has gained significant momentum in recent years, securing millions of pounds worth of private investment and public funding. NPTs innovative REFNOVA process also produces the co-product biochar, a natural carbon sink which can be used as soil enhancement.

Construction at NOVAONE, NPTs commercial-scale production site, is expected to begin by the end of 2023, and the facility is due to be producing fuels by 2025. The development is set to create major employment opportunities, supporting the decarbonisation of the aviation industry, and helping the UK meet its wider net zero targets.

British Airways was part of the first airline group to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The airline is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions through a series of short, medium- and long-term initiatives. In the short-term this includes improving operational efficiency, introducing new fuel efficient aircraft and progressively introducing sustainable aviation fuels using waste feedstocks, while in the medium to longer term this includes continuing to invest in the development and scale up of sustainable aviation fuel and looking at accelerating the growth of new technologies such as zero emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft and carbon capture technology.

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LanzaJet is a sustainable fuels technology company dedicated to accelerating the energy transition. As a SAF technology provider and producer with our patented LanzaJet Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) technology, LanzaJet is creating an opportunity for future generations by accelerating the deployment of SAF and other clean technologies critical to addressing the climate crisis and transforming the global economy.

Project Speedbird  
In 2021, Nova Pangaea Technologies (NPT) announced the launch of ‘Project Speedbird’ - a partnership with British Airways and LanzaJet, in which NPT would be providing advanced biofuels to be processed into SAF for British Airways by a dedicated SAF plant using LanzaJet’s patented technology. The initiative was launched to develop cost-effective second-generation SAF (waste and residue-based) for commercial use in the UK.

Project Speedbird will produce 82,000 tonnes of SAF per year, with British Airways intending to purchase all SAF produced at the facility to help power some of its flights. The SAF produced at the facility would reduce CO2 emissions, on a net lifecycle basis, by 230,000 tonnes per year. This is the equivalent of approximately 26,000 British Airways domestic flights*. (*Based on the calculated average UK domestic route from 2019 data).

Advanced Fuels Fund (AFF)
The UK Government’s October 2021 Net Zero Strategy laid out a commitment to: 'Become a leader in zero-emission flight, kick-starting commercialisation of UK sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) … to enable the delivery of 10% SAF by 2030'.

The UK Government has since announced its commitment of having at least five commercial scale SAF plants under construction in the UK by 2025.

To support these aims, the Advanced Fuels Fund was launched on 19th July 2022 by the Department for Transport (DfT).
The Advanced Fuels Fund has competitively allocated £135 million in grant funding to support UK advanced fuels projects until 31st March 2025. The latest announcement is the second tranche in funding.
 


            

 

 

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