British Airways, Solena Group team up for waste-to-jet-fuel plant

By Anna Austin
British Airways and Washington, D.C.-based Solena Group Inc. have entered a joint venture to build a 16 MMgy waste-to-jet-fuel plant in eastern London.

The plant will process 500,000 metric tons (551,156 tons) of municipal solid waste (MSW) into fuel each year, employing Solena Group's plasma gasification technology and the Fischer Tropsch process to produce the jet fuel and bionaptha, an oil blending component and feedstock for the petrochemical industry.

British Airways, which has a goal to reduce its net carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050, has signed a letter of intent to purchase all fuel produced at the plant to power part of its fleet.

The Fischer-Tropsch process tail gas will be used to generate 20 megawatts of electricity, which will be exported to the national grid or converted into steam to be used in a district heating system. British Airways media relations associate James von der Fecht said the location of the plant is yet to be determined. "We have short-listed our site search down to four potential sites in the east of London," he said. "We're working very closely with the Greater London Authority on this project and they have been extremely supportive."

Currently, waste disposal in London is paid for by local authorities through landfill taxes of about 40 (US $63) per metric ton, and will rise to 72 per metric ton between 2013 and 2014. The groups estimate the 500,000 metric ton waste requirement of the plant will save 36 million in landfill costs and could result in lower council taxes.

The project coincides with London's Foodwaste to Fuel Alliance, a project announced last year by Mayor Boris Johnson to jump-start the conversion of the city's food waste into renewable energy and reduce landfill rates and emissions through the construction of anaerobic digestion and biodiesel production facilities. According to the mayor's office, each year London generates 2.7 million metric tons of organic waste; the city landfills receive approximately 40 percent of it.

The Solena Group is financing the building and subsequent operations of the plant, according to von der Fecht, which is estimated to cost $280 million. He said the groups anticipate construction to commence in early 2012. The plant will take about two years to construct and British Airways hopes to begin receiving the fuel in 2014.