Green jet fuels ‘a great opportunity for the Humber’ – BA head after momentous Phillips 66 deal struck

British Airways’ head of sustainability has described green jet fuel as a “great opportunity for the Humber region” as it backs two production plants.

A two-year deal that could roll on has just been agreed with Phillips 66 for product made from waste oils, while it is also a partner behind Velocys’ plans for a new-build refinery to convert household rubbish.

There is no threat of competition, with Carrie Harris revealing how Friday’s contract would need to be multiplied by 50 to meet initial 10 per cent sustainable aviation fuel aims for the industry.

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Speaking to Business Live following the contract announcement – a year on from her appointment at the UK flag carrier – she said: “It is a proud day, certainly for us a landmark moment. We have been working in sustainable aviation fuel development for a decade, so this news is fantastic, to have a UK supplier that is going to be providing some of the fuel from early next year.”

Humber Refinery has been blending waste oils for road transport for some time, investing £20 million last year to open up aviation streams.

And as a host of BA-backed new projects start to get off the ground – including one at Stallingborough – this will be fuelling flying.

“Phillips 66 has an existing refinery, with operational infrastructure and a processing plant to facilitate the waste oil and cooking oil, and they have been doing that for road transport fuel,” Ms Harris said. “We hadn’t made contact with each other until last year.

(Image: Phillips 66)

“Now this is just the start. The initial deal is for two years, and we are really hopeful we can extend with Phillips 66. The nice thing is, we have got five different projects all with different technologies, using different ways to produce SAF. They are all from different types of waste product too.

“Velocys could be producing from 2025, that will take domestic waste that would otherwise go to landfill, so is solving two problems.”

The current total supply of SAF is 0.4 per cent, with global aviation, and a target set by BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group, is for 10 per cent by 2030.

To achieve that would mean another 50 times the Phillips 66 amount.

“It is a really big challenge, these are first-of-a-kind demonstration plants, and this work with Phillips is the first time it has been done at a commercial scale,” Ms Harris enthused.

“Within the next few months we will be taking the first fuel from Phillips 66, which is directly connected to the pipeline network that can supply into Heathrow and Gatwick, and we can then transport to London City and others.

The innovation on the Humber, the carbon capture and storage, these green fuels, it is a great opportunity for the area.”

Current legislation is for a 50 per cent maximum blend, but BA is confident that will change to 100 per cent in time.

(Image: British Airways)

Just like renewable electricity, it gets fed into the network and drawn off – with all airlines accessing it – but BA leading on the funds.

“At the moment there is generally a price premium,” Ms Harris said. “That’s why we are working with the government to ask for support, and they have given some funding, but we need more from the government to help scale up.

“We are looking for the 10 per cent ambition to be converted into a legally-binding mandate so the whole industry is incentivised; we also need a price support mechanism to ensure price stability, for people investing to have some certainty that they are going to get a fair return.”

The ideal is seen as the renewable energy model, contracts for difference – where in little over a decade costs have been brought down to fossil fuel parity.

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Plans to mark the first draw off from the plant are being made, with Ms Harris looking forward to visiting the South Killingholme plant.

She joined BA from IAG, where she was group sustainability manager for the past five years.

A chartered environmentalist, fellow of IEMA – the accreditation body for sustainability professionals – she is a registered environmental auditor and holds masters’ degrees in Environmental Science and Management.

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