Washington D.C. based renewable transport fuel specialist, Solena Fuels has committed to building a facility in Essex, UK to process 575,000 tonnes of residual municipal solid waste into aviation fuel in partnership with British Airways.

According to BA, the GreenSky London facility will be the world’s first to convert waste destined for landfill into jet fuel.

The facility will be located at the Thames Enterprise Park, part of the site of the former Coryton oil refinery in Thurrock, Essex, which the airline said has excellent transport links and existing fuel storage facilities.

Once operational the facility is expected to produce some 120,000 tonnes of liquid fuels, of which BA has agreed to purchase all 50,000 tonnes of aviation grade fuel at market competitive prices.

According to Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, that will be enough to fuel all of its flights from London City Airport (pictured) for a year twice over.

“The construction of the GreenSky London fuel facility at Thames Enterprise Park will lay the foundations for British Airways to reduce its carbon emissions significantly,” he said.

Plasma technology

The project is being developed by Solena and will use its patented high temperature plasma gasification technology to convert the waste efficiently into synthetic gas.

The gas will then be converted into liquid hydrocarbons using third party technologies which will include cleaning and conditioning of the gas, a Velocys Fischer-Tropsch conversion process, hydrocracking and electric power production.

Hydrocracking is a process by which hydrocarbon molecules are broken into simpler molecules by the addition of hydrogen under high pressure and in the presence of a catalyst.

According to Walsh, with the initial engineering design completed, Solena and its partners are now starting the next phase of engineering of the facility.

“We anticipate starting construction of the site in approximately 12 months after all the requisite permits and agreements have been obtained,” explained Robert Do, president and CEO of Solena Fuels.

Location location location

Greenergy Thanmes Terminal_Vopak_220

Thames Enterprise Park and neighbouring Thames Oilport, established in 2012, is a joint venture with Greenergy, a national provider of road fuel with significant infrastructure and service capabilities, as one of the investors and the site project facilitator for this project.

“This is an ideal site for a biofuel initiative like Solena’s,” explains Andrew Owens, chief executive of Greenergy. “It is located on the Thames with fuel storage and fuel pipelines and good road, rail and jetty infrastructure.”

“Thames Enterprise Park’s main goal is to provide regeneration of the former Coryton oil refinery following its closure in 2012.  The facility proposed by British Airways and Solena is exactly the type of high profile technology project both we and Thurrock Council want to attract to the site, particularly given the number of skilled jobs provided,” he added.


British Airways has committed to purchasing, at market competitive prices, the jet fuel produced by the plant for the next 11 years which equates to $550 million at today’s prices.

The airline is also providing construction capital and becoming a minority shareholder in GreenSky.

Financial advice on the project is being provided by Barclays Bank.

“The economic and environmental fundamentals will, we believe, be attractive to investors from both a debt and equity perspective,” commented Gabriel Buck, head of CAPEX financing solutions at Barclays.

“The project debt structure has been identified with preliminary agreements in place with an Export Credit Agency who are not only providing the guarantees but also the funding,” he continued.

“We are now focused with the project team on getting all aspects of the funding structure completed,” Buck concluded.

It is anticipated that the construction phase will create one thousand jobs, and that once complete in 2017 up to 150 permanent jobs could be created at the site.

Video footage of Willie Walsh discussing the project on location at the Thames Enterprise Park can be seen below.

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