The world’s first ethanol to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production plant was opened in Soperton, Georgia, USA, by LanzaJet. Attended by the US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, as well as Deputy Secretary of Energy, David Turk, and a range of industry leaders, the plant’s opening is being touted in press materials as an “historic moment” in “sustainable and decarbonized aviation.”
LanzaJet markets itself as a sustainable fuels technology company and producer, and is a spin-off from sustainable energy company LanzaTech, which only went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange in February 2023 (in a $2 billion SPAC or “shell company” deal).
The venture is supported by a coalition of shareholders and investors, all desperate to find an answer to the problem of scaling SAF production to meet the demands of decarbonization. These include the International Airlines Group (IAG), Mitsui & Co, Shell, Suncor Energy, Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Breakthrough Energy, British Airways, and ANA. Offtake agreements and intentions to buy are already in place.
Today is a testament to the conviction required by industry, government, and funders to advance innovation and stretch the boundaries of what is achievable to address decarbonization and tackle climate change.Jimmy Samartzis, LanzaJet CEO
Vilsack optimistically hailed the development as a gamechanger: “LanzaJet’s facility will help accelerate the SAF industry and provide new economic opportunities for producers for a more sustainable future.” Unsurprisingly, Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaJet Board Director and CEO of LanzaTech, agreed. “This historic facility is an important pillar of a growing SAF economy in the United States and is a significant decarbonization milestone in the world,” she said.
Based in Treutlen County, Georgia, in the so-called “Magnolia Midlands” – an area of vast fertile plains, provincial Southern towns, agricultural heritage, rivers, lakes, wildlife, and small town festivals – the new “Freedom Pines Fuels” facility promises more than 250 jobs and an estimated $70 million in annual economic activity for the local economy.
Using diverse, supposedly sustainable feedstocks, including agricultural waste, municipal solid waste, and carbon captured from industrial processes, the intention is to produce “drop-in” fuel, which is to say, SAF that can be used in existing aircraft, rather than specialist fuel requiring re-engineered planes. It is a response to the White House’s SAF Grand Challenge, which calls for a supply of at least 3 billion gallons of SAF annually by 2030 to tangibly reduce aviation emissions.