A new sustainable aviation company is taking off, and Suncor is one of the partners helping get it off the ground.

On June 2, biotech company and carbon recycler LanzaTech announced the launch of LanzaJet, Inc., which will produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for a sector requiring climate-friendly fuel options as it starts to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Suncor is investing US $15 million to establish the company alongside Japanese trading and investment company Mitsui & Co., which will invest US $10 million.

“We believe this technology will provide a solid foundation for the commercial production of sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel,” says Mark Little, president and CEO, Suncor. “These products are very complementary to our existing product mix and we see growth potential in both North American and international markets. We’re committed both to a low-carbon future for our own business and to helping our customers realize their own vision of a sustainable future.”

That includes our customers in the commercial aviation business. In addition to our equity investment, we’ve contracted to take a significant portion of the SAF and renewable diesel produced at the facility to provide our jet fuel and distillate to customers with sustainable energy solutions.

The funding will be used to build a demonstration plant that will produce 10 million gallons per year of SAF and renewable diesel starting from sustainable ethanol sources. Production is expected to start in early 2022. This initial investment coupled with participation from All Nippon Airways (ANA) will complement the existing US $14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, enabling the construction of an integrated biorefinery at LanzaTech’s Freedom Pines site in Soperton, Georgia.

“The launch of LanzaJet marks a historic milestone in the clean energy transition that is underway globally,” says Jimmy Samartzis, LanzaJet CEO. “The commercialization of LanzaJet - built on the shoulders of LanzaTech, Suncor, Mitsui, ANA and with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy – gives our world, and aviation in particular, an important solution in shaping a cleaner future.”

The LanzaJet process can use any source of sustainable ethanol for jet fuel production, including, but not limited to, ethanol made from recycled pollution, the core application of LanzaTech’s carbon recycling platform. Commercialization of this process, called Alcohol-to-Jet (AtJ) has been years in the making, starting with the partnership between LanzaTech and the U.S Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). PNNL developed a unique catalytic process to upgrade ethanol to alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK), which LanzaTech took from the laboratory to pilot scale.

“Achieving our global climate goals requires scaling new, transformative technologies rapidly,” says Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech CEO. “Suncor, Mitsui and ANA are stepping up to show that achieving meaningful scale will require new technologies, new business models and new approaches.”

Suncor and Mitsui are aiming to invest further in the construction of commercial production facilities after the demonstration meets all its technical and economic targets.