UK SAF venture Project Speedbird gets £9m gov funding

A project that should eventually supply British Airways with 102 million litres of sustainable aviation fuel per year has been backed by £9m of UK government funding.

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Project Speedbird will see the airline working alongside Teesside-based Nova Pangaea Technologies (NPT) and the US company LanzaJet. NPT’s technology converts agricultural waste and wood residue feedstocks into second-generation biofuels such as ethanol, while LanzaJet’s proprietary technology converts ethanol into SAF.

Initially, NPT’s ethanol will be processed into SAF at LanzaJet’s stateside Alcohol to Jet (ATJ) plant in Georgia. Project Speedbird will eventually see SAF produced end-to-end in the UK, with an ATJ facility set to open in 2027. By 2028, the project is expected to be at full capacity, producing 102 million litres of SAF per year. It’s claimed this will reduce net lifecycle CO2 emissions by 230,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of approximately 26,000 British Airways domestic flights.

“Sustainable aviation fuel will play a critical role in meeting our net zero targets and is currently the only realistic low carbon solution for long-haul flights, so it is vital that we continue to invest and develop SAF technology in order to create enough supply,” said Carrie Harris, director of Sustainability at British Airways.

“We welcome the government's investment and continued support in Project Speedbird which represents landmark new technology for UK SAF supply. The UK has the potential to become a leader in the production of SAF, and this pioneering project is one step closer to this becoming a reality and a big moment for British Airways and UK SAF production more generally."  

The £9m funding has been delivered via the government’s Advanced Fuels Fund (AFF) competition. NPT has been awarded £7.5m, with LanzaJet receiving the remaining £1.5m. Multimillion-pound investments in Project Speedbird have already been made by BA parent company International Airlines Group( IAG).

“Nova Pangaea Technologies are delighted to have secured this multi-million-pound investment,” said Sarah Ellerby, chief executive of NPT.

“Our first commercial-scale production facility will be the first of its kind in the UK, and will use wood residues and non-food derived agricultural waste as its feedstocks. Our partnership, Project Speedbird, will play a transformational role in decarbonising the aviation sector, as well as providing local employment opportunities in the North East.”