Low Carbon Jet Fuel

A British Airways jet climbs into a clear blue sky

This multidisciplinary project brings together leading engineers and scientists from the universities of Heriot-Watt, Aston, Oxford and Edinburgh to develop and produce sustainable alternative fuels that can play a key role in decarbonising the aviation industry.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry are significant and new fuel alternatives are required in order to meet the UK's energy and environmental demands, and to ensure security of supply. Gasification of waste biomass is a key enabler for the transition to sustainable energy required to meet emission reduction targets.

The project aims to produce a low carbon synthetic aviation jet fuel through the integration of novel technologies, using CO2 and wood pellet biomass and a combination of co-electrolysis, to produce a fuel that is negative in emissions.

In basic terms, the biomass pellets are heated to 600 degrees through a gasification process to make carbon monoxide. Separately, waste carbon dioxide is put through an electrolyser to create a second gas. The jet fuel is created when these two new gases are combined and turned into a liquid. This approach integrates chemistry (bottom-up method to develop novel catalysts and electrodes) and engineering (top-down method to tailor heat and mass transport parameters influencing reaction conditions) to efficiently produce a sustainable jet fuel.

The project also considers process integration and life cycle analysis by incorporating the newly developed process into a wider domain (e.g. various sources of carbon) and will investigate the social/political/economic valuation of the biomass and CO2 approach for adding value to the jet fuel chain.

These innovative approaches won the Transport Innovation Award, and a Highly Commended Prize in the Sustainability & Environmental Impact category, in the 2019 Institution of Engineering and Technology Innovation Awards. The project team was also a finalist in the British Airways BA2119 Future of Fuels Challenge with University College London and London School of Economics.

Contact our Global Research, Innovation and Discovery team about research collaboration and business partnership opportunities at GRID@hw.ac.uk