A Plane Fuelled By Garbage Could Soon Fly You From New York To London

A Plane Fuelled By Garbage Could Soon Fly You From New York To London

British Airways has an ambitious and smelly plan: convert municipal waste into 120,000 tonnes of jet fuel. By 2017, they say, the first factory in the world to turn garbage into jet fuel will be up and running. Waste-fuelled transatlantic flights could come soon after.

It’s all part of a plan that will make flying a little more environmentally friendly, reports ClimateWire. According to British Airways’ head of environment Jonathan Counsell, turning trash into biofuel generates twice as much energy as incinerating it for trash.

To that end, British Airways has partnered with Solena Fuels to build a trash-to-jet fuel conversion facility at, appropriately enough, a former oil refinery just east of London. The facility will take the waste cities already collect and turn it into fuel. ClimateWire explains the process:

Once the waste has been cleaned of any hazardous or recyclable materials, it will be combusted in a low-oxygen environment that produces a synthesis gas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, a process known as gasification. The gas will then be converted to liquid fuel, in a process called Fischer-Tropsch.

While trash-to-jet fuel has been floated as an idea, this new facility represents a large-scale commitment to putting that idea into practice. British Airways has said it will buy 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel a year from this facility. Elsewhere, Boeing has partnered with the USDA and FAA for a “Farm to Fly” program to accelerate the development of turning farm waste into jet fuel. Other airlines have been experimented with algae-based fuels.

Airlines are all into alternative fuels these days because jet fuel has become so expensive, eating up over a third of their operating costs. That sucks for their bottom line, but perhaps it will end up being just a little better for the Earth. [ClimateWire, Jalopnik]

Picture: AP Photo/Francois Mori