Willis Lease Finance Undertakes Power-to-Liquid Sustainable Aviation Fuel Project

Willis Lease Finance, a lessor of commercial aircraft engines and a provider of global aviation service operations for more than 45 years, launched a project to develop and produce power-to-liquid (PtL) sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Most notably, the company and its subsidiary, Willis Sustainable Fuels, along with financial and strategic partners, are advancing plans toward a new sustainable aviation fuel refinery in northeastern England.

“Our pioneering PtL SAF project would 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,” Austin C. Willis, CEO of Willis Lease Finance, said. “As one of the first aviation leasing companies to spearhead a SAF initiative of this magnitude, we are thrilled to be continuing our legacy as a leader and innovator in aviation. The SAF project is one element of our broader strategy to contribute towards the decarbonization of aviation. WLFC has committed to and invested approximately $1.5 billion in modern technology, lower fuel consumption engines over the past few years and will continue to do so in support of this strategy.”

For this new eco-chapter in aviation history, Willis believes that “stakeholders outside the traditional supply chain will be critical to meeting the aviation industry’s currently contemplated industry goals.” In 2019, Willis Lease Finance expanded its UK presence by establishing an aircraft technical services business at Teesside International Airport in Darlington, UK, and forging partnerships in the region.

“Building on our valued relationship with Teesside International Airport, we’re excited to partner with local stakeholders to continue to advance our plans toward the first PtL SAF refinery in Teesside,” Willis said.

Willis Lease Finance’s initial focus in the UK is largely based on its existing relationship with Tees Valley in northeastern England, where Willis Lease Finance has developed Willis Aviation Services and Jet Centre by Willis at Teesside International Airport over the last 36 months.

The PtL SAF 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 that this new decarbonization project has great potential to create new jobs and demonstrate how Teesside International Airport and Willis Lease Finance are working together for the whole of Teesside and adjoining Darlington and Hartlepool in Tees Valley.

“Willis Lease Finance is already a great partner to our airport, and the SAF project will also support the airport’s aim to establish itself as the UK’s first net zero airport,” Houchen said.

Willis Lease Finance’s current commercial relationships with more than 120 global airlines, as well as regional UK airlines, further qualifies the company to facilitate participation and SAF off-take commitments from airlines and/or large-scale fuel distributors.

The new SAF refinery project completed feasibility studies in late 2022. Working with Teesside International Airport and partners with subject matter expertise in sustainable energy as well as building infrastructure, Willis Lease Finance believes that SAF is the most viable near-term way to contribute to a decarbonized future in aviation. The project is now in the front-end engineering design stage. The PtL SAF process is being designed to utilize feedstocks derived from CO2 and green hydrogen (produced from renewable electricity).

“WLFC is proud to be at the forefront of this important global initiative aimed at accelerating the transition to a more sustainable aviation industry,” Willis said. “We are serious about this project and committed to its success.”

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