Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson said last week his company is investing in technology that will develop low-carbon jet fuels from the waste materials produced in the steel industry. Virgin Atlantic aircraft will be using the new fuel within two to three years, Branson said. "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," Branson said. "This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel."
Technology developed by LanzaTech will capture waste gases from industrial steel production, which will then be fermented and chemically converted using Swedish Biofuels technology. The production process recycles waste products that would otherwise release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to Virgin. The technology is currently being tested in New Zealand, and a larger demonstration facility will be commissioned in Shanghai by the end of this year. A demo flight with the new fuel is expected within 12 to 18 months. The first commercial operation will be in place in China by 2014, Virgin said.