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Poo powered planes: Wizz Air wants to make sustainable aviation fuel from human waste

Wizz Air hopes to power its planes by using human waste sooner rather than later
Wizz Air hopes to power its planes by using human waste sooner rather than later Copyright Wizz Air
Copyright Wizz Air
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Wizz Air has teamed up with a British company to transform human waste into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

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Could human waste power the future of air travel? Wizz Air hopes so.

The Hungarian airline says it’s reached a deal with a British company to work on producing sustainable jet fuel made from human waste.

The biofuel company, Firefly Green Fuels, has developed a process which will convert waste from sewers into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The company says it hopes to begin supplying the lower carbon power source from around 2028 and has come to an agreement with Wizz Air’s UK-based wing to provide up to 525,000 tonnes of SAF over a 15 year period.

Wizz Air has teamed up with biofuel company Firefly Green Fuels on the sustainability project
Wizz Air has teamed up with biofuel company Firefly Green Fuels on the sustainability projectWizz Air

How will human waste be transformed into sustainable aviation fuel?

Ahead of the fuel going into production, British company Anglian Water has agreed to provide biosolids - a product of its wastewater treatment process - to Firefly.

Using those byproducts, scientists will be able to develop the SAF.

Its production uses around 70 per cent less carbon than conventional jet fuel.

Although it won’t mean an end to traditional fuels used in planes, SAF can be used in a maximum blend of 50 per cent with kerosene - without the need for any modifications to jet engines.

Cost is an issue, however, with SAF being significantly more expensive to produce than conventional jet fuel at present.

Experts behind the human waste-based process are hopeful that the benefits will justify the costs.

While Firefly chief executive James Hygate admits in a statement that biosolids are "kind of disgusting stuff", he says they are "an amazing resource".

"We're turning sewage into jet fuel. I can't really think of many things that are cooler than that," he told press.

What would the use of SAF mean for the aviation industry?

Paul Hilditch, the Firefly's chief operating officer, says SAF could help the aviation industry slash its carbon emissions.

"There's enough biosolids in the UK for more than 200,000 tonnes of SAF. That's enough to satisfy about half of the mandated SAF demand in 2030,” says Hilditch. “We're not the only answer - we need the other routes to SAF - but this new route to SAF has the potential to move the needle, it has the potential to be a significant contribution to UK SAF supply.”

Hilditch is also hopeful for the future of SAF, explaining it’s not just the UK that can use it: “Anywhere in the world where there are people, there's poo.”

Firefly is confident that it will work out and is in the process of obtaining official, regulatory approval for its system to be used to fuel aircraft in the near future.

Wizz Air hopes it will be able to power at least 10 per cent of its flights with SAF by 2030, something that will likely please the British government.

Under its own SAF mandate, at least 10 per cent of all fuel used by UK airlines must be made from sustainable feedstocks by 2030.

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