Competitive Edge: Velocys

September 3, 2020 |

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

Velocys is delivering the next generation of sustainable fuels to decarbonize aviation. We were founded from spinouts of Oxford University in the UK and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the USA, developing a proprietary technology which enables the production of sustainable transport fuels from a variety of waste materials, including household waste and woody biomass.

We have demonstrated our technology at scale and developed an end-to-end technology solution to produce fuels that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and exhaust pollutants for aviation – the hardest transport mode to decarbonize. We are now developing two commercial projects – Altalto Immingham in the UK and Bayou Fuels in Mississippi in the US – and our technology has been licensed to a range of clients across the world, including in the US and Japan.

As the world heads towards Net Zero, and if we are to continue to get the benefits of modes of travel that require high energy density fuel, then demand for liquid sustainable fuels will only increase. The ‘drop in’ nature of the fuel that Velocys’ technology can produce means that ours is a “here and now” solution to one of the most consistently polluting sectors of the global economy, requiring no changes to engines or wider design.

There is significant global opportunity in this area. In the UK, for example, recent forecasts from industry coalition Sustainable Aviation show that 32% of the UK demand for kerosene could be met by domestically produced sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2050 – we want to be at the forefront of this movement internationally.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

Velocys’ waste-to-jet-fuel process will significantly reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and exhaust pollutants for aviation, helping to cut aviation’s net emissions.

As an international sustainable fuels technology company, Velocys has staff based in Britain and the US. With projects on both sides of the Atlantic, we are taking what society doesn’t want and creating a product that it can’t do without in a net zero world.

Our waste-to-jet-fuel process has been proven at scale and is made up of the following steps:

  1. Waste Physical preparation of feedstock and removal of remaining recyclables
  2. Syngas Thermally and chemically break the material into its component parts to produce syngas
  3. Clean Syngas Physically and chemically remove impurities from the syngas
  4. Velocys’ proprietary Fischer Tropsch Product Chemically react the Syngas to form long chain hydrocarbons
  5. Finished products Chemically cut the long chain hydrocarbons to form jet fuel or diesel

This process will be utilized at both our UK and US facilities.

Velocys is working with British Airways and Shell in the UK- under the brand name Altalto – to develop UK’s first commercial scale waste-to-jet-fuel plant in Immingham, North East Lincolnshire. By combining demonstrated technologies in a new way, the plant will take everyday household and commercial waste and turn it into sustainable jet fuel.

Velocys is also developing a first of its kind facility in the US, which will take waste woody biomass and transform it into carbon negative transportation fuels through the utilisation of Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS). The plant will take woody biomass residues and other low value biomass streams and turn it into sustainable fuel for aviation, along with heavy-duty road transport.

Q: What stage of development are you?

Commercial stage – have mature products or services on the market.

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

Of all modes of transport, aviation is the most challenging to decarbonize because the energy density and performance of batteries cannot come close to matching liquid hydrocarbon fuel, particularly over longer distances. Flying is therefore likely to remain mainly liquid fuel based for the foreseeable future. Aircraft, engine and operational improvements can all help, but only SAF can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero for a long haul flight. SAF is therefore indispensable in a net zero world.

The proposed Altalto Immingham plant is to convert hundreds of thousands of tonnes per year of non-recyclable everyday household and commercial waste, otherwise destined for landfill or incineration, into cleaner burning SAF. The fuel produced will offer net greenhouse gas savings of around 70% for each tonne of conventional jet fuel it displaces. It will also improve air quality, with up to 90% reduction in particulate matter (soot) from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100% reduction in sulphur oxides.

Whilst our Bayou Fuels facility will take waste from the Mississippi paper and lumber industries – woody biomass forest residue that would otherwise rot on the forest floor. We will then convert this waste into cleaner burning sustainable fuels for aviation or heavy duty road transport. With a standard configuration, the fuel will deliver a net CO2 saving of around 70% for each tonne of conventional fuel it displaces.

In addition, Velocys’ agreement with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC (OLCV) will take the environmental benefits accrued a step further through CCUS; whereby Bayou Fuels CO2 will be captured before it enters the atmosphere. This combination of CCUS-ready technology and OLCV’s expertise in storing CO2 will enable the Velocys’ facility to produce net negative carbon intensity fuels.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

The development of SAF has the potential to be transformative not just for the aviation sector, but society as a whole as we emerge from COVID-19. SAF will play an integral role if we are to return to the skies whilst also limiting emissions, fulfilling the global desire to ‘build back better.’

Our proposed facilities could be producing SAF in commercial scale by the middle of this decade. The ‘drop-in’ nature of the fuel means that the world’s first zero emission plane can be one that is already in the sky, using SAF produced with Velocys technology.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. Technology demonstration at ENVIA

This strategically critical demonstration of two Velocys Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactors over a two year period to 2019, proved that Velocys’ technology not only works, but can be scaled commercially. During this period, the reactors produced more than 1.6 million litres of fuels and waxes over 5,000 hours of run-time, without any issues during operation.

The data and learnings from this demonstration has and will continue to prove valuable for Velocys and our commercial partners as we proceed with the development of our reference projects: Altalto and Bayou Fuels.

  1. Planning approval for Altalto

In a major milestone for our Altalto project, planning permission was granted in May 2020 for the UK’s first commercial scale waste-to-jet-fuel plant. The decision had the support of not only local stakeholders, but also the UK Government, with Aviation Minister Kelly Tolhurst commenting “It’s great to see the industry leading the way in creating new technologies to help achieve our target of net zero emissions by 2050, while also bringing new jobs to the local area. Innovative technologies – like the development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels – firms up the UK’s position as a leader in aviation, and shows the determination the industry has in continuing to operate, but in a more environmentally-friendly way.”

  1. £20m fundraise

Following a number of project milestones in 2020, this important fundraise in June 2020 demonstrated significant support from both new and existing investors. The fundraise had to be upsized from its original target to meet additional institutional investor demand, and even at this higher level was still oversubscribed.  The fundraise demonstrated the significant and growing appetite amongst investors (institutional and retail) to sustainable solutions which will enable the energy transition away from fossil fuels, in order to achieve a net zero world.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years? 

  1. FID on both Altalto and Bayou Fuels

On both our Altalto (Immingham, UK) and Bayou Fuels (Mississippi, USA) waste-to-fuel sites, we expect to reach a Final Investment Decision by 2021 – a major milestone which will enable construction to begin on both projects either side of the Atlantic.

  1. Construction start on both Altalto and Bayou Fuels

Following FID being reached, we are targeting construction to begin in 2022 and fuel production at commercial scale from 2025, fuelling the future of flight for decades to come.

  1. Secure further licencing to international client base

Following the recent manufacturing and delivery of our proprietary Fischer-Tropsch technology to Red Rock Biofuels in the US and Toyo Engineering in Japan, Velocys has also been invited to carry out pre-feasibility work for a number of new waste-to-jet-fuel projects around the world of similar scale and scope to our two reference projects. Over the next three years, we expect to see further demand for our technology, building on this success.

Q: Where can I learn more about Velocys?

Click here to visit Velocys’ website.


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