Sewage powered planes on the horizon thanks to £5 million investment

Airlines of the future could take to the skies powered by fuel made from sewage sludge after a game-changing deal was signed between an innovative Gloucestershire business and a European airline.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
James Hygate from Firefly Green Fuels said the deal with Wizz Air could be a game changer for aviation.

Wizz Air, which bills itself as Europe’s fastest growing and most environmentally sustainable airline, has announced a £5 million investment in biofuel company Firefly which is owned by a Gloucestershire businessman.

A spin-off from Berkeley-based firm Green Fuels Research, which won a Royal Warrant of Appointment to the former HRH The Prince of Wales, Firefly is run by the same boss, county businessman and Cheltenham resident James Hygate.

And it is no ordinary biofuel supplier — it makes it aviation fuel from sewage.

Hygate called the deal with Wizz Air a potential ‘game changer’, with all eyes watching the progress in an industry under huge pressure to drastically reduce its carbon footprint.

‘We are thrilled. The investment will accelerate the commercialisation of our game-changing Firefly process, with the binding offtake agreement saving a staggering 1.5m tonnes of carbon emissions,' said Hygate.

'Firefly will facilitate a step change towards the future of air travel. The feedstock, sewage sludge, is available in vast quantities globally and we can put it to a truly beneficial use, reducing the use of fossil fuels in the hardest to decarbonise areas.’

This is Wizz Air’s first equity investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) research and development and the partnership with Firefly will allow the airline to supply SAF to its UK operations from 2028, up to 525,000 tonnes over 15 years.

Wizz Air has already invested heavily in its fleet by adding new and replacing older aircraft with the Airbus A321neo allowing it to fly with fuel made with up to 50 per cent SAF blend.

Michael Berlouis, head of strategic projects at Wizz Air, said: ‘Our investment in Firefly and its sewage sludge SAF technology is a major step forward for Wizz Air in securing its long-term ability to provide low-cost fares to its customers in an ever more environmentally sustainable way.’

It is hoped the partnership will lead to a first-of-its-kind commercial refinery for the fuel and its roll-out to several UK locations where airports, pipeline terminals and wastewater treatment works are in close proximity.

Firefly, which is based in Bristol, aims to have its first commercial plant operating within the next five years.

More from Business