Proposals for the first sustainable aviation fuel refinery of its kind in the North East have announced for the Tees Valley.
Global aviation services group and aircraft leasing firm Willis Lease Finance Corporation (WLFC) and its subsidiary Willis Sustainable Fuels (UK) Limited are advancing plans for a commercial scale Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) facility on Teesside.
The Power-to Liquid (PtL) refinery will convert feedstocks derived from industrial waste CO2 and green hydrogen produced from renewable electricity into aircraft fuel.
The process is seen as a key in delivering a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry.
An application for planning permission is likely to be submitted in the coming weeks with approval decision expected in months.
The decision builds on the company’s growing relationship with Teesside International Airport where it has operated since 2019.
The project aligns with the Tees Valley Net Zero strategy and the UK government’s Ten Point Plan, Build Back Greener, and Jet Zero strategies. It also combines the development of a National Hydrogen Hub in Tees Valley.
Austin C. Willis, CEO of WLFC, said: “Our pioneering SAF manufacturing project will directly support the global aviation industry’s ambitious goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, which represents a major, near-term step in the important effort to decarbonize aviation.
“As the first aviation leasing company to spearhead a SAF initiative of this magnitude, we are thrilled to be continuing our legacy as a leader and innovator in aviation.
“Building on our valued relationship with Teesside International Airport, we’re excited to partner with the supportive Tees Valley Combined Authority and other local stakeholders to continue to advance our plans toward the first Power-to-Liquid SAF refinery in Teesside.
“WLFC is proud to be at the forefront of this important global initiative aimed at accelerating the transition to a more sustainable aviation industry. We are serious about this project, we’re committed to its success, and we strongly encourage others in aviation to follow suit.”
WLFC is separately progressing plans for a £25million maintenance facility and a state-of-the-art Jet Centre at Teesside Airport’s Aviation Village, with the investment set to bring a significant number of jobs to Teesside.
The airport’s Jet Centre by Willis provides a full range of ground handling services for business, private aviation, military, and cargo flights, with plans for further improvements as WLFC expands its operations at the site.
Subsidiary Willis Aviation Services Limited currently leases Hangar 2 at the airport as its base for aircraft maintenance, storage, and disassembly.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Willis is already a great partner to the airport, with work under way to bring its £25million Aviation Village and Jet Centre to the site – creating hundreds of jobs. If we hadn’t have saved the airport, this would have passed us by – and it shows how both Teesside Airport and Willis are working for the whole of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”
“Decarbonisation is one of the biggest issues facing the aviation industry today. If we’re truly serious about becoming the UK’s clean energy powerhouse and growing Teesside Airport responsibly, SAF is an opportunity that we need to grab with both hands.
“This announcement is another huge investment that could come to Teesside, bringing more of the cleaner, safer and healthier jobs of the future that our local people deserve.”
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