Willis Lease Finance Chooses Site in UK for New Sustainable Aviation Fuel Plant

Willis Lease Finance, a lessor of commercial aircraft engines and a provider of aviation services, together with its subsidiary, Willis Sustainable Fuels (UK) Limited, selected Teesworks in Tees Valley, England, as the intended location for a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant. This plant will be the first of its kind in the region focused on developing and producing power-to-liquid (PtL) sustainable aviation fuel. Teesworks is the United Kingdom’s largest industrial zone, and an international hub for sustainable and low-carbon activity.

Willis Lease Finance’s planned PtL SAF refinery will be designed to convert feedstocks, sourced from industrial-waste carbon dioxide and green hydrogen (produced from water by electrolysis using renewable electricity) into aviation turbine fuel. Willis Lease Finance’s new refinery will harness abundant feedstocks, avoiding constraints that impede SAF production using traditional bio-based pathways.

“Our pioneering SAF project at Teesworks will directly support the global aviation industry’s ambitious goal of net-zero emissions by 2050,” Austin C. Willis, CEO of Willis Lease Finance, said. “We are proud to be continuing our legacy as a leader and innovator in aviation, being the first aviation leasing company to launch a SAF initiative of this type.”

Willis Lease Finance and Willis Sustainable Fuels (UK) Limited have been working closely with Tees Valley Combined Authority and partners with subject matter expertise in sustainable energy since proposals for the SAF refinery were announced in July. Willis Lease Finance expects to also have an option to lease additional land in Tees Valley for a potential second and larger refinery in the future.

“Our process is designed to produce ‘drop-in’ sustainable aviation fuel utilizing advanced technology for PtL SAF, making it available for immediate use once blended with jet fuel,” Stephanie Sutherland, director of corporate development at Willis Lease Finance, said. “WLFC’s focus on SAF is one element of our broader goal to contribute to the decarbonization of aviation.”

The project aligns with and supports not only the Tees Valley Net Zero strategy, but also the UK government’s Ten Point Plan, Build Back Greener and Jet Zero strategies. Combined with Tees Valley creating a National Hydrogen Hub, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen believes this new SAF project has immense potential to boost the area’s standing as a decarbonization leader within the UK.

“Willis’ decision to select Teesworks as the location for its SAF plant is further evidence of the progress we are making to ensure our area is the first choice for global firms developing the cleaner, greener industries of tomorrow. This project will provide the highly skilled, well-paid jobs that I want to bring to Teesside, Hartlepool and Darlington, and is a further step in our area becoming the UK’s clean energy powerhouse,” Houchen said.

“We are delighted at this announcement by Willis Lease Finance Corporation, which will bring another global name to Teesworks,” Chris Musgrave, chairman of Teesworks, said. “This innovative refinery is a great example of the sustainable industries of the future that we are bringing to Teesside, which will also deliver jobs and investment for local people. We look forward to supporting the development and overall success of this major project.”

“Our Teesside SAF project not only aligns with Tees Valley’s ambition to establish itself as an innovation and sustainability hub in the UK, but it also represents an exciting opportunity to deepen and build upon our relationships within the community and with local stakeholders,” Willis said. “We understand the critical role the aviation industry plays in connecting the world and the urgent need to address its environmental impact. Not only is WLFC a leader in leasing the most fuel-efficient jet engines in production, but we are excited to become a leader in the PtL SAF space and to do our part in accelerating the transition to a more sustainable aviation industry.”

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