Sewage to be Converted into Aviation Fuel

In a groundbreaking move, the UK is set to establish the world’s first factory dedicated to transforming sewage into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Firefly, a British biofuel company, has partnered with the budget airline Wizz Air to construct a commercial refinery that will play a pivotal role in converting sewage into SAF.

Firefly has developed a unique conversion process, and the fuel is currently undergoing regulatory evaluation. Upon approval, it could be utilized to power aircraft, the company announced this week.

Essex will host the refinery, which will be the first of its kind. By 2028, it is expected to begin supplying commercial quantities of SAF to airports in London. According to Firefly, the UK has the potential to accommodate two additional such facilities.

Wizz Air has demonstrated its commitment by placing a substantial order for up to 525,000 tons of Firefly’s waste-based fuel over the next 15 years.

Anglian Water, a utility company, has pledged to provide Firefly with biosolids from its wastewater treatment process for a pilot facility.

James Hygate, Firefly’s CEO, described biosolids as “rather unpleasant stuff,” but emphasized their value as “an incredible resource.”

“We’re converting sewage into jet fuel. I can’t think of many things that are cooler than that,” he added.

SAF production generates 70% less carbon than traditional jet fuel, but it is currently substantially more expensive to produce.

According to Paul Hilditch, Firefly’s COO, “the UK has enough biosolids to produce over 200,000 tons of SAF” – which he estimates would meet roughly half of the mandated SAF demand by 2030.

The converted sewage is anticipated to be more affordable and widely available, and it could potentially cover 5% of the fuel needs of UK airlines, Hilditch predicted.

The UK government has imposed a mandate requiring airlines to use at least 10% of their fuel from sustainable sources by 2030.