Manchester Airport is to become UK’s first airport to have a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) jet fuel supply direct from production plant via an existing pipeline.

The supply will come from Fulcrum BioEnergy Limited UK which is developing a new SAF refinery at Stanlow. Manchester Airport Group (MAG), the owner of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fulcrum.

The new biorefinery, Fulcrum NorthPoint at the ESSAR Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Cheshire could produce approximately 100 million litres of SAF per year when fully-operational in 2026 meaning up to 10 per cent of the fuel used by aircraft at Manchester Airport could be replaced with SAF within five years of the Fulcrum NorthPoint facility becoming operational. The £600m facility will convert non-recyclable household and commercial waste and produce a ‘drop in’ renewable fuel, requiring no aircraft engine modification. When blended 50/50 with traditional jet fuel, those 100 million litres could fill the fuel tanks of approximately 1,200 B777-300s. The company says that the fuel produced will have a CO2 footprint “at least 70 per cent lower than that of its traditional jet fuel equivalent”.

As part of the agreement SAF will be supplied to Manchester Airport through the Manchester Jet Line (owned and operated by Penspen) and the UK Oil Pipeline network (UKOP) which already runs between Stanlow and the airport. Once operational, using the existing pipeline to connect Manchester Airport to the SAF biorefinery will make the airport the first in the UK to feature such a dedicated fuel supply method.

Research by E4Tech in a Sustainable Aviation publication from 2020, showed that a North West SAF cluster could generate up to 1,520 jobs and £219m GVA annually in the North West and a total of 6,500 jobs and £929m GVA annually across the UK.

Neil Robinson, MAG CSR and Airspace Change Director said:  “Today really is a landmark moment in our journey towards a decarbonised aviation sector. By working towards a future supply of SAF, direct to Manchester Airport via existing pipelines from a local refinery, we’re making sustainable operations accessible for airlines based here.”

“The introduction of SAF is testament to the innovation we have seen, and the collaboration between airports, airlines, the Government and suppliers like Fulcrum to achieve real progress towards our goal of Net Zero for UK aviation by 2050.”

“We are committed to ensuring that this progress continues through our role on the Government’s Jet Zero Council, on Sustainable Aviation and through our own targets in our CSR Strategy where we’re working to becoming Net Zero at our airports by 2038.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “This partnership is a huge leap forward for the long-term competitiveness of Britain’s aerospace sector, demonstrating how, by going green, industry can create jobs and help level up across the UK.”

“Cleaner aerospace and aviation is at the centre of our plans to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050. That is why we are backing sustainable aviation fuel with £180 million of support and working with industry to turbocharge low carbon aerospace innovation with £3.9 billion.”

Fulcrum BioEnergy Limited UK is a subsidiary of Fulcrum Bioenergy, Inc., which was founded in 2007. It is currently commissioning the world’s first household waste to fuels facility – the Sierra BioFuels Plant – located in Nevada, US.

Jeff Ovens, Fulcrum Bioenergy Limited UK Managing Director said: “Our partnership with MAG as an airport operator will bridge airlines and fuel suppliers and make SAF accessible and more widespread within the sector. This collaboration will also support our ambition to cementing the North West as a centre for excellence for SAF in the UK, driving forward the Prime Minister’s 10 point plan for an industrial revolution.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “The agreement between Fulcrum and Manchester Airports Group has the potential to be a transformative step forward for sustainable aviation, for the Ellesmere Port industrial area and for the North West.

“Subject to a robust planning process and extensive engagement with communities, Fulcrum can support West Cheshire’s ambition to become a world-leading location for clean growth, create high quality STEM jobs within the region and support the decarbonisation of a hard-to-reach sector.”