In the land of the rising sun, things are looking a whole lot brighter for All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, and for LanzaTech and their sustainable aviation fuel. ANA and LanzaTech signed an offtake agreement for sustainable aviation fuel – a big step in ANA’s efforts to minimize its environmental impact and meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a target date of 2021 for the delivery of the sustainable aviation fuel.
Biofuels is not new for ANA, though. They purchased 70,000 gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. earlier this year in January. “This bio jet fuel will be mixed to the current fuel ANA is using on the San Francisco flights and lead to the reduction of roughly 150 tons of carbon dioxide,” according to ANA.
As for U.S.-based LanzaTech, in case you have been stuck on a deserted island for the last few years and don’t know much about the #1 company of The Digest’s 2019 “50 Hottest Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy” rankings, you can read The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide here.
In a nutshell, LanzaTech is using their advanced microorganism-powered gas fermentation technology to create ethanol and commercializing technology developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) that allows for the production of sustainable aviation fuel. LanzaTech has already launched operations of a commercial plant in China, which uses this technology, and together with PNNL has also established catalyst technology to produce SAF fuel from ethanol, according to the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. press release. This is a huge win for the DOE and PNNL as it’s proof that research and work conducted in labs can lead to commercialization of new fuels technology.
“Also we have a grant from the DOE for Phase 1 work to get a demonstration plant shovel ready,” LanzaTech’s CEO Dr. Jennifer Holmgren told The Digest. “We will have completed that work later this year. It is going really well. So we are ready to start construction on our demonstration plant.” LanzaTech is now raising cash to build the demo and then quickly after that plan on building three commercial 30 million gallon per year plants, according to Holmgren.
Dr. Holmgren sees the big picture of all this too and is sharing that vision with others. “At a time when there is a real need to reduce our global carbon footprint, doing everything serially is not going to get us to where we need to be,” Holmgren told The Digest. “While I personally have burnt out on traveling, it would be a sad world, indeed, if travel becomes so expensive that the far reaches of our beautiful planet are not accessible to most people. This means that bold action is needed, so raising cash to enable building a demo and then 3 commercial plants in parallel will help change the dynamics of the sustainable aviation fuel market. We are talking a minimum of 100 million gallons per year of sustainable aviation fuel (aka LanzaJet) in ~ 4 years from today.”
And that is pretty incredible when you think about current SAF production.
LanzaTech Freedom Pines Biorefinery, Soperton, GA
So how is Mitsui involved? You may remember them as a lead investor in LanzaTech in 2014 and then as a strategic investor back in 2018. They are working with LanzaTech to jointly develop a sustainable aviation fuel manufacturing business that utilizes LanzaTech’s catalytic technology. ANA signed a partnership agreement with Mitsui & Co., Ltd., and “ANA plans to implement these exciting breakthroughs by testing LanzaTech’s sustainable aviation fuel made from industrial waste emissions on our new delivery flight this fall,” according to ANA’s press release.
According to Mitsui, “The companies are now progressing with business collaboration, and as part of the MOU Mitsui and ANA will jointly conduct a delivery flight of a newly built aircraft from the USA to Japan in fall 2019 using SAF produced by LanzaTech.”
Why LanzaTech? Why biofuel?
Curious on the why behind this latest decision? Did ANA choose LanzaTech because they were the #1 company of The Digest’s 2019 “50 Hottest Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy”? We’d like to think so, but here’s what we do know:
ANA knows sustainability for the aviation industry is of utmost importance right now. According to their press release, “As ANA increases its global presence, the airline is working to ensure that it maintains its reputation for global leadership on issues of sustainability. With sustainability emerging as a crucial question for all modern businesses, ANA remains committed to upholding its values and preserving our shared home. ANA has always aimed to challenge the norms and raise the bar in the airline industry, striving to set the standard for service, comfort and sustainability. By working with LanzaTech to implement sustainable aviation fuel, ANA hopes to enhance the quality of fuel used in its aircraft while also meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of its efforts to become the most eco-friendly airline group in the world.”
How’s that for a lofty goal? Most eco-friendly airline group in the world? Watch out KLM, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, JetBlue and all the others out there working on lowering their impact via aviation biofuels. All in all, it’s amazing to see the aviation industry coming together on sustainability and working to improve their products and services not just for people but for planet too.
So ANA’s focus on sustainability and wanting to be the most eco-friendly airline group in the world “led the airline to conduct a comprehensive search for the most efficient sustainable aviation fuel, selecting LanzaTech’s unique product for its flexibility and high energy density.”
So what did they love the most about LanzaTech’s fuel? “The sustainable aviation fuel developed by LanzaTech does not contain any sulfur and as per current international standards for all sustainable aviation fuel used in commercial flights will be blended with at least 50% conventional jet fuel, easing the transition to full sustainability,” according to ANA.
As for LanzaTech, they are super happy about seeing airlines talk about SDG goals. “More and more globally you see corporations trying to ensure they and their products meet these criteria,” Holmgren told The Digest. “It is an important focus and links beautifully to what we do and our ambitions as a company to make a better world for all. The ANA release also mentions RSB (Round Table for Sustainable Biomaterials) which is, of course, critical to getting it right.”
LanzaTech Freedom Pines Biorefinery, Soperton, GA
Reactions from the majors
“ANA has always been guided by our values, and our decision to transition to sustainable aviation fuel reflects how seriously we take our commitment to the environment,” said Akihiko Miura, Executive Vice President of ANA. “Adopting this advanced fuel will allow us to reduce CO2 emissions and meet the ambitious sustainable development goals that we have set for the airline. At ANA, we seek innovative solutions to the most pressing problems, and we will continue looking for ways to reduce our ecological impact in order to create a better world.”
“Amid an upward trend in demand for air freight, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has set a goal for the industry to cap CO2 emissions beyond 2020. Reflecting the growing need to align business activities with ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mitsui will work towards the successful establishment of a low-carbon society through the stable and long-term supply of SAF, and contribute to measures to tackle global warming and other challenges currently facing our planet.”
“LanzaTech is committed to scaling and commercializing Sustainable Aviation Fuel quickly to ensure gallons are available for airlines focused on meeting their CORSIA obligations,” Holmgren told The Digest. “Success is only possible through strong collaboration including the aviation industry and the environmental community. We are thrilled to be working with Air Nippon Airlines and Mitsui who are commitment to creating a low carbon future through the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel. These companies are well aligned with our vision of creating a better world for all through their commitment to following the guiding principles of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials.”
ANA wants to be the most eco-friendly airline in the world.
LanzaTech wants no carbon left behind and wants to change the world for the better and bring sustainable aviation fuel to global commercialization asap.
Mitsui wants reduced CO2 emissions through its supply chain to Japan and other markets around the world.
Can it be done? Sure can, and these three companies are on the right path to making it happen. In the land of the rising sun, things are looking brighter indeed.