Virgin Atlantic planes will use 'green' fuel

Sir Richard Branson promised today to introduce a new "green" aviation fuel on Virgin Atlantic planes within two to three years.

The Virgin boss announced the development with the LanzaTech company of low-carbon aviation fuel.

The technology involves waste gases from industrial steel production being captured, fermented and chemically converted using Swedish Biofuels technology for use as a jet fuel.

The revolutionary fuel production process recycles waste gases which would otherwise be burnt into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Virgin said that within two to three years it was planning flights with the new fuel on its routes from Shanghai and Delhi to Heathrow as LanzaTech and partners develop facilities in China and India.

The technology is currently being piloted in New Zealand, a larger demonstration facility will be commissioned in Shanghai this year, and the first commercial operation will be in place in China by 2014.

Following successful implementation, a wider roll-out could include operations in the UK and the rest of the world.

Launching the LanzaTech partnership in London today, Sir Richard said: "We were the first commercial airline to test a biofuel flight and we continue to lead the airline industry as the pioneer of sustainable aviation.

"This partnership to produce a next generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited about the savings that this technology could help us achieve."

He went on: "With oil running out, it is important that new fuel solutions are sustainable and, with the steel industry alone able to deliver over 15 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, the potential is very exciting.

"This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel."

Virgin Atlantic will be the first airline to use this fuel and will work with LanzaTech, US plane-making company Boeing and Swedish Biofuels towards achieving the technical approval required for using new fuel types in commercial aircraft.

A "demo" flight with the new fuel is planned in 12-18 months.