Science

Sir Richard Branson welcomes landmark Virgin Atlantic biofuel flight

Virgin's Boeing 747 landed at London Gatwick with a fuel blend containing 5% biofuel made from industrial waste gases converted into ethanol.

Sir Richard Branson has welcomed the first commercial flight powered partly by a new form of biofuel converted from alcohol.

Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747 aircraft landed at London Gatwick with a fuel blend containing 5% biofuel made from industrial waste gases converted into ethanol.

Sir Richard, the airline’s founder, guided the aircraft towards a stand after it touched down on Wednesday.

The billioniare told reporters it was “a historic day”.

He went on: “The fuel is cleaner than normal jet aviation fuel.

“From the globe’s point of view, if all fuel could be recycled fuel it would make a massive difference from a climate change point of view.”

The biofuel, produced by start-up firm LanzaTech, is certified to make up as much as 50% of a plane’s total fuel supply.

The “sustainable” fuel delivers a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of “at least 65%” compared with conventional petroleum fuel, according to LanzaTech.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger urged the Government to take the “critical next steps” of approving a change in legislation to allow such companies using carbon capture technology to be eligible for financial incentives, and to support investment in the first plants to produce the fuel.

LanzaTech is aiming to open three UK plants by 2025, producing enough fuel to fly all Virgin Atlantic’s UK outbound flights in a 50/50 mix.

Sir Richard said: “The combination of what Virgin Atlantic are doing – getting younger and younger planes, more and more fuel-efficient planes – and then hopefully one day being able to power all our planes with LanzaTech’s fuel – that is the dream that we have got to make sure becomes a reality.”

LanzaTech chief executive Jennifer Holmgren said: “We have shown that recycling waste carbon emissions into jet fuel is not impossible, that waste carbon needs to be thought as an opportunity not a liability, that carbon can be reused over and over again.”

Aviation minister Liz Sugg said: “It is fantastic to see Virgin Atlantic conducting its first commercial flight using an advanced fuel.

“We are committed to cutting carbon emissions and promoting new environmentally friendly fuels – especially for aeroplanes which will rely on traditional fuels for years to come.

“We’re supporting innovation in advanced fuels through a £22 million competition that will help industry build advanced low-carbon fuel plants here in the UK.”

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