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Shell invests in LanzaJet to speed up deliveries of its synthetic aviation fuel

Jonathan Shieber
·2-min read

The energy giant Shell has joined a slew of strategic investors -- including All Nippon Airways, Suncor Energy, Mitsui and British Airways -- in funding LanzaJet, the company commercializing a process to convert alcohol into jet fuel.

A spin-off from LanzaTech, one of the last surviving climate tech startups from the first cleantech boom that's still privately held, LanzaJet is taking a phased investment approach with its corporate backers, enabling them to invest additional capital as the company scales to larger production facilities.

Terms of the initial investment, or LanzaJet's valuation after the commitment, were not disclosed.

LanzaJet claims that it can help the aviation industry reach net-zero emissions, something that would go a long way toward helping the world meet the emissions reductions targets set in the Paris Agreement.

"LanzaJet's technology opens up a new and exciting pathway to produce SAF using an AtJ process and will help address the aviation sector's urgent need for SAF. It demonstrates that the industry can move faster and deliver more when we all work together," said Anna Mascolo, president, Shell Aviation, in a statement. "Provided industry, government and society collaborate on appropriate policy mechanisms and regulations to drive both supply and demand, aviation can achieve net-zero carbon emissions. The strategic fit with LanzaJet is exciting."

LanzaJet is currently building an alcohol-to-jet fuel facility in Soperton, Georgia. Upon completion it would be the first commercial-scale plant for sustainable synthetic jet fuel, with a capacity of 10 million gallons per year.

The fuel is made by using ethanol inputs -- something that Shell is very familiar with. It's also something that the oil giant has in ready supply. Through the Raízen joint venture in Brazil, Shell has been producing bio-ethanol for more than 10 years.

The company expects that its sustainable fuel will be mixed with conventional fossil jet fuel to power airplanes in a lower carbon intensity way. Roughly 90% of the company's production output will be aviation fuel, while the remaining 10% will be renewable diesel, the company said.

LanzaJet’s SAF is approved to be blended up to 50% with fossil jet fuel, the maximum allowed by ASTM, and is a drop-in fuel that requires no modifications to engines, aircraft and infrastructure. Additionally, LanzaJet’s SAF delivers more than a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis, compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. The versatility in ethanol, and a focus on low carbon, waste-based and nonfood/nonfeed sources, along with ethanol’s global availability, make LanzaJet’s technology a relevant and enduring solution for SAF.