Jet zero and green ships

The UK is positioning itself to be at the forefront of aviation and maritime technology, pushing forward low carbon travel.

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The UK’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan is to drive the uptake of sustainable aviation fuels, increase investments in R&D to develop zero-emission aircraft and develop future infrastructure at airports and seaports. The UK will be the global home of green ships and planes.

The UK aviation sector is globally renowned and home to prominent events such as the Farnborough International Airshow.

With strengths in the design, manufacture, and support of some of the highest-value aircraft components (such as engines, landing gear, systems), the UK is well positioned to lead the charge on sector decarbonisation.

Opportunity highlights

The Jet Zero strategy will outline the key aviation investment opportunities in the UK including:

  • sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) – an early investment opportunity that could generate up to £1.6 billion in gross value added (GVA) per year
  • zero emission aircraft – technologies such as hydrogen-electric and battery-electric aircraft have already been demonstrated in the UK

The UK marine sector must innovate to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets set by the IMO (50% of 2008 levels by 2050). By 2025 it is expected that all vessels operating in UK waters maximise energy-efficiency options.

The sector has begun to decarbonise, but with new technologies at demonstration and initial deployment stage, key UK investment opportunities are available.

Alternative fuel-powered vessels

LNG (liquefied natural gas) is being adopted by the sector, with mid-term opportunities in sources such as ammonia produced from hydrogen created using green electricity, or with the use of carbon capture and storage or highly efficient batteries.

New vessel design

Features of new vessels include waste-heat recovery systems and advanced propulsion systems.

Low emission ports

This will mean integrating these ports into the UK’s decarbonised energy network and supplying the fuels of the future through zero-emission marine-fuel bunkering. The ports will also need to decarbonise their own operations, deploying green alternatively powered tugs, pilot boats and port equipment.

Commercial maturity

Hydrogen is a key strategic component to decarbonising both aviation and maritime sectors, but a proven ‘winning’ technology hasn’t been established yet. Trials are taking place across the UK to understand how hydrogen can be most effectively deployed as a fuel source.

Other alternative fuel sources are also being trialled, and the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Road-Map sets out how sustainable aviation fuels could contribute to UK aviation realising net zero by 2050.

The aerospace sector is supporting the UK supply chain to develop new hybrid-electric and electric technologies. This includes opportunities to develop reliable and robust electrical systems with more generation power, as well as storage and distribution capacity.

Aircraft design will also play a vital role in reducing emissions in the sector, and developments in advanced materials are supporting the ‘lightweighting’ of aircraft to achieve better fuel efficiency.

Key UK assets

The maritime sector contributes up to £13.8 billion and 260,000 jobs to the UK economy annually. There are UK clusters with the potential to lead in the supply of clean maritime technologies, creating opportunities for investment:

  • Western Isles – hub for green hydrogen
  • Inner Hebrides – hybrid ferry operation
  • Orkney Islands – hydrogen powered ferry
  • Aberdeen – energy demand cluster
  • Teesside – hub for hydrogen production
  • Teesport and Immingham Southampton – LNG bunkering
  • Southampton – LNG bunkering

The innovative UK civil aerospace sector is the world’s third-largest and has whole-aircraft capability. It has expertise in aerostructures, propulsion, systems, aircraft interiors and through-life services. Key clusters can be found in the Midlands, the North West, the South West, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

Important assets are driving green innovation forward:

High Value Manufacturing Catapult

Catapults are located across the UK, developing sustainable innovation-driven solutions for the aerospace sector.

Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre at Cranfield University

The centre’s projects drive innovations in digital airspace and airport infrastructure that will help the UK reach its target of net zero carbon emissions.

Rolls-Royce Research and University Technology Centre

A global network that tackles a wide range of engineering and environmental disciplines – from combustion and aerodynamics to noise and manufacturing technology.

National Aerospace Research Consortium (NARC)

A centralised point of engagement to the UK’s top university aerospace research capabilities.

GKN Innovation Centre

The centre develops state-of-the-art vehicle technologies, creating lighter, quieter, and more efficient electric vehicles and with a focus on electric motors, energy storage and lightweight structures.

R&D capability

The Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure project is supporting infrastructure development for electric and hydrogen aircraft – such as charge points for planes.

The UK is investing £15 million into FlyZero, a 12-month study into the strategic, technical, and commercial issues in designing and developing zero-emission aircraft that could enter service in 2030.

The Future Flight programme will open new aviation markets through demonstration of aviation systems, incorporating low environmental impact, autonomous air vehicles and airspace management by 2025.

Over £15 million is also being made available in the form of the Green Fuels, Green Skies (GFGS) Competition, supporting the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in the UK.

About £20 million funding is being made available in the form of a Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) to support and accelerate research, design, and development of zero emission technology and infrastructure solutions for the maritime sector.

Business and government support

The UK has internationally respected civil aerospace and maritime regulators. The Jet Zero Council is bringing together industry and government stakeholders to drive the delivery of new technologies and ways of cutting aviation emissions.

The UK will establish a Maritime Innovation lab (MAR Lab) to pioneer regulatory approaches to Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). MAR Lab will develop a regulatory framework to test vessels.

The UK is also looking to create the Maritime Emissions Regulation Advisory Service (MERAS) to support innovators using zero-emission propulsion technologies through the regulatory process.

The UK is exploring the establishment of a UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK-SHORE) to focus on decarbonising the maritime sector.

Case studies

Vertical Aerospace

Vertical Aerospace is a global aerospace manufacturer based in Bristol, England that designs and builds zero emissions, vertical take-off and landing electrically powered aircraft.

With access to the best talent, from both the aerospace sector in Bristol and Formula 1 in Oxfordshire, Vertical has built one of the most experienced teams in the eVTOL industry, who have over 1,700 combined years of experience, and have certified and supported over 30 different civil and military aircraft and propulsion systems.

Vertical believes passionately in the power of electric aircraft to change the way the world travels and is enabling this change by combining the rigour and discipline of aerospace with the pace and agility of Formula 1, to develop cutting-edge aircraft.

Vertical is one of only a handful of companies worldwide to have flown two full-scale all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) prototypes, both with UK Civil Aviation Authority approval.

Vertical recently unveiled the VA-X4, set to be one of the world’s first certified winged eVTOL aircraft with initial commercial operations expected to start in 2025. Powered by Lithium-ion batteries VA-X4 will fly completely emission-free.

SWIFT Hydrogen Ferry

The SWIFTH2 feasibility study seeks to determine the viability of developing new island wind-power in the Scottish Western Isles to produce electrolytic or ‘green’ hydrogen.

The hydrogen would then be utilised as a zero-emission fuel for a new class of hydrogen-powered ferry operating on one of the established passenger routes.

Early development opportunities

Altalto Immingham

Developer

Velocys Projects Ltd

Technology

Gasification and Fischer-Tropsch (Gas+FT)

Location of plant

Immingham, Hull

Estimated CAPEX of final plant

£834m

Opportunity and background

The Altalto project, developed by Velocys and British Airways, is positioned to create the first commercial waste-to-jet-fuel plant in Europe.

It will take feedstock derived from municipal, commercial and industrial wastes and convert it into SAF using gasification and FT technology. The project aims to remove the main barriers to widespread deployment.

Altalto has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 140,000 T CO2e per year (up to 340,000 with carbon capture and storage), make better use of residual waste, create jobs, and bring significant export opportunities to the UK.

Protos Biofuel Plant FEED

Developer

Advanced Biofuel Solutions Limited (ABSL)

Technology

Gasification and Fischer-Tropsch (Gas+FT)

Location of plant

Protos Energy Park, Cheshire

Estimated CAPEX of final plant

£168m

Opportunity and background

ABSL will work with a British refinery and engineering company to design a facility in Cheshire, planned as a commercial plant.

The proposed feedstock is refuse derived fuel (RDF) from municipal solid waste (MSW) with waste wood as a backup option. The plant will use gasification and Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology to convert 133,000 tonnes of waste a year into a biocrude that can be upgraded to aviation fuel.

The plant could produce up to 10,700 tonnes of aviation fuel per year, with a 76% reduction in carbon emissions compared to conventional jet fuel.

Project DRAGON

Developer

Lanzatech UK Ltd

Technology

Alcohol-to-jet (AtJ)

Location of plant

Port Talbot, South Wales

Estimated CAPEX final plant

£137m

Opportunity and background

Project DRAGON will prepare the FEED package for the Inside Battery Limits (ISBL) of the LanzaTech UK Port Talbot Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) SAF production facility.

The aim is to create the world’s first commercial ethanol-based ATJ production facility and provide over 100 million litres of certified SAF a year to the UK aviation sector.

All equipment and process unit operations employed by the ATJ process are used in integrated refinery and petrochemical complexes around the world, using closely related feeds, meaning additional scaling carries low technical risk.