British Airways' Greensky London Project, United Kingdom


British Airways (BA)

In February 2010, British Airways (BA) unveiled plans to construct a plant to produce jet biofuel. Called the GreenSky London project, it is the first of its kind in Europe.

The project includes the construction of an advanced facility which will use 500,000t of food and plant waste annually to produce 16 million gallons of biojet fuel and nine million gallons of bionaptha. The plant will also generate 40MW of electricity, which can be fed to the national grid.

Construction of the plant is expected to cost $280m, excluding land acquisition costs. Barclays has been appointed as the advisor to seek funds for the project.

The project is expected to create 1,200 jobs during construction and 150 permanent jobs when it comes online in 2015.

"The plant will also generate 40MW of electricity, which can be fed to the national grid."

Fuel produced by the plant is expected to be twice the quantity required for all of BA aircraft leaving London City Airport. For Heathrow, however, only two percent of BA aircraft will use the fuel from the plant. The jet biofuel to be produced at the facility is certified for use in several countries but not in the UK. BA expects to receive the certification by the time the plant starts operating.

The fuel is expected to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 145,000t, which is equivalent to removing 48,000 cars off the road. The plant is also expected to divert about 250,000t of waste from going to landfill, which in turn will save about £36m in landfill costs for local authorities. The project will enable British Airways to fulfil its aim of cutting down carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050.

BA claims that the plant will provide greenhouse gas savings of about 95% in comparison to kerosene. Greenpeace, however, claim that the plant will have no significant impact on the volume of jet kerosene needed for BA's fleet.

Friends of the Earth also said that substantial quantities of jet biofuels cannot be made from sustainable sources such as food waste. The organisation noted that the plant could lead to similar problems which were created when biofuels for cars began to be manufactured.

Processing technology and biofuel production

The plant will use Solena's Plasma Gasification (SPG) technology which involves a combination of plasma arc gasification and the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert waste into biofuel.

"BA claims that the plant will provide greenhouse gas savings of about 95% in comparison to kerosene."

Compared to conventional gasification technologies, SPG technology can process 20% to 50% more waste. Biomass and residue feedstock such as paper, plastics, tyres, chips and forestry residues can be used in the process.

The waste is passed through a high-temperature gasifier known as a plasma gasification vitrification reactor. The reactor operates at 5,000°C and uses plasma arc processes to break down all hydrocarbon and organic substances in the waste and convert them into synthetic gas or syngas.

The process uses a carbon-based metallic catalyst to disseminate the gasification process over the entire area. The Fischer-Tropsch process is then used to convert the syngas into biofuel.

Contractors involved with BA's GreenSky London

"The waste is passed through a high-temperature gasifier known as a plasma gasification vitrification reactor."

International consultancy Arcadis is the principal consultant for the project and will be responsible for managing the delivery of the plant. About 20 acres of land are expected to be required for the plant.

Arcadis is working on finalising the plant's location. It is considering four disused brownfield sites in east London.

US-based Solena Group has been contracted to build and operate the plant. Under an agreement made with Solena Group, British Airways will procure all the fuel generated at the plant.

The Fisher-Tropsch catalyst and reactors will be supplied by Oxford Catalysts Group. The pre-front end engineering and design (Pre-FEED) is currently being carried out by Fluor.


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