<p>Flying high: Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo</p>

Flying high: Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo

Virgin Group plans to use low-carbon fuel made from plastic waste

Partnership with technology firm Agilyx is part of plan to be net zero by 2050

Lucy Thackray
Thursday 17 February 2022 08:50
Comments

Virgin Group has announced that it plans to source lower-carbon fuel made from waste plastic for future flights.

In a bid to tackle both the problem of excess plastic and ease the use of fossil fuels in aviation, the company - which owns Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Orbit among other ventures - has partnered with technology firm Agilyx on the project, which aims “to research and develop lower carbon fuel facilities to help address plastic pollution and the global transition to net zero”.

Agilyx specialises in chemical conversion technology, and is aiming to help the aviation world to use plastics destined for landfill to create crude oil, from which lower-carbon fuel can be made.

The move is part of the company’s wider goal of becoming net zero by 2050.

“We cannot keep wasting all of this plastic, throwing it away, littering our oceans… this is valuable material,” Agilyx CEO Tim Stedman told City AM.

“The key thing here is that this is an innovative, fast moving, project. We’re aiming together with Virgin to have real impact, at real scale, in this challenge we have with waste and the need to move to a lower carbon economy and eventually net zero,” he added.

“It’s very exciting, a first step in a journey that’ll really help us deliver on both angles.”

The first plastic-to-fuel manufacturing plant is set to open in the US, with a potential UK site to follow.

Only nine per cent of plastics are currently being recycled, with the vast majority destined for landfill.

It follows last week’s news that Virgin Atlantic has signed a deal with Neste Oyi to supply 2.5 million litres of neat Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which will be delivered in the first half of 2022 to London Heathrow.

In September 2021, British Airways operated its first flight using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The airline said the flight from London Heathrow to Glasgow demonstrated how “aviation is decarbonising”.

Earlier in 2021, its parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), became the first European airline group to commit to powering 10 per cent of its flights with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.

However, critics of SAF point out that it must be blended with kerosene in order to be used for flights, and cause at least as many inflight emissions.

The aviation industry has also encountered problems in scaling up this type of fuel for commercial use.

“With the best will in the world, scalability is a massive issue – because SAFs currently take far more money and resources to create than fossil fuels,” says The Independent’s travel editor, Helen Coffey.

“And the ways in which you could swiftly increase the scale – for instance, by annexing great swathes of land to grow single, fast-growing crops – are a nightmare for biodiversity, and raise big red flags at a point when we need to be using land to feed a growing population.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in