RIYADH: The aviation industry’s efforts to develop low-carbon fuel at affordable cost received a boost after a deal was struck to invest $22.7 million into a UK startup working in clean energy technology.
The venture units of oil firms Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Italy’s Eni have partnered with United Airlines to invest the amount into OXCCU, a company spun out from the University of Oxford.
Led by US-based investor Clean Energy Ventures, the investment will be used to facilitate OXCCU's efforts in slashing the high cost of low-carbon aviation fuel, according to a statement.
OXCCU is known to make fuel by combining carbon dioxide captured from industry or power plants with hydrogen made using renewably sourced electricity.
This process is achieved by using an iron-based catalyst to carry this in one step, thereby replacing the costly two-stage process usually required for the chemical reaction.
According to the statement, streamlining the process this way knocks as much as 50 percent off the capital cost and produces fewer byproducts.
“Sustainable aviation fuel is the best tool we have to decarbonize air travel, but we continue to face a significant supply shortage,” United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen said.
He went on to explain that the technology developed by OXCCU could resolve the supply problem by using CO2 as a feedstock to produce fuel.
“This cutting-edge solution could be a cost-effective pathway for United to reach our commitment of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets,” Leskinen stressed.
Based on the evaluation of dozens of technologies, Clean Energy Venture found OXCCU’s process unique in the emerging sustainable aviation fuel industry.
“We see extraordinary potential for this technology to mitigate new aviation fuel production emissions at gigaton-scale in the near future, and we are pleased to lead an extraordinary consortium of industry leaders to support the company in its commercialization and deployment,” said Daniel Goldman, co-founder and managing partner of Clean Energy Ventures.
Speaking at an aviation forum last month, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said that low-carbon fuel could help the aviation sector transition to greener forms of energy.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman who made the remarks at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, highlighted the importance of going green and sustainability to the sector.
The minister noted that achieving sustainability cannot be achieved by relying on biofuels, and all options — including hydrogen — should be considered to ensure a better low-carbon future.