Breakthrough Energy makes 1st Catalyst project funding with $50 million grant to LanzaJet
Breakthrough Energy announced that its first Catalyst project funding will go to LanzaJet’s Freedom Pines Fuels sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant in Soperton, Georgia, in the form of a $50 million grant. Breakthrough Energy Catalyst is a unique program that brings together corporate and philanthropic organizations to accelerate the deployment of essential technologies by funding key first-of-a-kind commercial-scale projects.
Projected to be operational next year, LanzaJet’s Freedom Pines Fuels project is the firm’s first commercial-scale SAF plant and will be the first in the world to produce alcohol-to-jet SAF, which will lower emissions by at least 70 percent compared to fossil jet fuel. Once fully operational, this plant will play a critical role in scaling SAF production and bringing lower-cost sustainable fuels to market.
The plant is expected to produce 9 million gallons of SAF and 1 million gallons of renewable diesel annually, roughly doubling current SAF production in the U.S., according to LanzaJet.
Construction of the plant will enable the significant scale-up of LanzaJet’s technology within the U.S. and globally, with subsequent projects already in the planning phase in North America, Europe and Asia that, together, would produce more than 1 billion gallons of SAF annually.
First-of-a-kind projects for emerging technologies often struggle to access low-cost capital because they have high green premiums and frequently face unforeseen challenges and costs, especially in the current inflationary environment. By providing capital to these types of early commercial facilities, Catalyst funding can reduce risk for follow-on investments and accelerate the deployment of clean technologies. In this case, Freedom Pines Fuels’ Catalyst grant filled a funding gap and will enable the plant to maintain its current development timeline.
Importantly, the grant will also spur further SAF innovation by helping create a new market for scalable, low-carbon ethanol from sustainable sources by setting the expectation that the plant will transition to second-generation ethanol, including from waste-based feedstocks, by its fifth year. This transition will complement work LanzaJet is already doing to build SAF plants using second-generation ethanol in the U.K. and develop strategic partnerships to accelerate the advanced fuel’s development, of which there is currently little supply in the market.
“Breakthrough Energy Catalyst is a new way for the private sector to accelerate the clean-energy transition by funding projects that will ensure essential climate solutions get to market on the timeline the world needs,” said Rodi Guidero, the executive director of Breakthrough Energy and managing partner of Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “LanzaJet’s new sustainable aviation fuel plant could play a vital role in decarbonizing aviation while demonstrating how the jobs and businesses of the clean-energy economy can power communities. We’re grateful to Catalyst’s partners, who understand climate leadership means supporting the technologies that will eliminate emissions and that solving our climate challenges will require nothing less than mobilizing the world’s economic engine to build a net-zero future.”
Jimmy Samartzis, CEO of LanzaJet, added, “LanzaJet is grounded in innovation, and we work every day with a sense of urgency to address our global climate challenge. To maximize our impact and scale our technology to deliver significant quantities of sustainable aviation fuel worldwide, partnerships matter. We have a real opportunity on our doorstep to significantly scale-up and globally deploy our technology, and we wouldn’t be able to build this plant as quickly or affordably without Breakthrough Energy’s Catalyst grant, which reduced our total cost of capital and is critical to reducing emissions and accelerating the pace of bringing SAF to the global market.”
Aviation accounts for approximately 2 to 3 percent of global greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions annually, and as a drop-in fuel, sustainable aviation fuels offer an important way to quickly decarbonize aviation with existing aircraft currently in use around the world.
Produced from a variety of low-carbon, sustainable feedstocks such as agricultural waste, municipal solid waste, energy crops, or carbon captured from industrial processes or ambient air, SAF is a like-kind replacement for traditional jet fuel and is compatible with existing aircraft and infrastructure. SAF can dramatically reduce lifecycle GHGs compared to conventional fuel made from crude oil, while also significantly improving local air quality by reducing conventional air pollutants like particulate matter.
Breakthrough Energy’s Catalyst grant joins earlier supporters of LanzaJet’s Freedom Pines Fuels plant, which has received funding from the U.S. DOE and the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, as well as investments from LanzaJet’s shareholders Mitsui & Co., Suncor Energy, LanzaTech, British Airways, and Shell.
The plant is being built at a unique moment of opportunity for SAF. The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits that will help jumpstart production of SAF in the U.S. and make clean jet fuels more price competitive. It also includes $297 million for a grant program dedicated to scaling up clean-aviation technologies, including SAF.
Breakthrough Energy was founded by Bill Gates in 2015 to accelerate the clean-energy transition and help the world reach net-zero emissions by 2050.