A Bill Gates fund invested $50 million in a startup that's building a massive refinery to turn alcohol into jet fuel

A Bill Gates fund invested $50 million in a startup that's building a massive refinery to turn alcohol into jet fuel
Bill Gates founded Breakthrough Energy in 2015 to boost innovation in clean energy.Kevin Dietsch / Staff / Getty Images
  • A Bill Gates fund invested $50 million in a startup making sustainable aviation fuel from ethanol.
  • The Breakthrough Energy fund made the grant to LanzaJet, which is building its first commercial plant.

An organization founded by Bill Gates has granted a startup $50 million to build a massive refinery that produces sustainable aviation fuel from alcohol.

On Wednesday, LanzaJet announced it had received the funds from the Gates-led Breakthrough Energy fund, to continue work on its first commercial plant in Soperton, Georgia.

Sustainable aviation fuel is being explored by airlines as a way of making the industry more environmentally friendly. Currently, its adoption has been hampered due to the relatively low amounts produced.

The Soperton facility, known as the Freedom Pines Fuel Plant, is set to begin production in 2023. LanzaJet said the plant would produce nine million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel, and one million gallons of renewable diesel, per year when fully-operational.

The funds will help the company meet its development timeline for the plant, which will roughly double the amount of sustainable aviation fuel made in the US, LanzaJet said.


LanzaJet produces the fuel using ethanol from products like sugarcane and waste corn. The company said it will lower emissions by at least 70% compared with conventional aviation fuel.

Gates founded Breakthrough Energy to boost innovation and investment in clean energy technology. The $50 million grant comes from Microsoft Corporation, BlackRock Foundation, Builders Vision, and Gates, per Bloomberg.

It adds to the millions of dollars of support LanzaJet has already received, including a $14 million grant from the US Department of Energy, and a combined $200 million from backers including British Airways and Shell, per Bloomberg. In January, Microsoft's Climate Innovation Fund, also founded by Gates, invested another $50 million towards the project.

Commercial aviation contributes just over 2% of all human-induced C02 emissions. SAF is an important, albeit still minor, part of how airlines plan to reduce their climate impact, to meet the International Air Transport Association's goal of being net zero by 2050.

In December, United Airlines flew a passenger flight using 100% SAF. The Boeing 737 Max 8 flew from Chicago O'Hare to Washington DC with 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and 500 gallons of traditional jet fuel in the other.


And in March, Airbus flew an A380 superjumbo using fuel made from cooking oil.