TECHNOLOGY spun out of Oxford University will be used to help convert landfill waste into jet fuel for British Airways.

Velocys, based at Milton Park, near Didcot, says it expects to earn more than £18m during the three-year construction of GreenSky London at the former Coryton oil refinery on the Thames estuary in Thurrock.

The Oxfordshire company, which last year changed its name from Oxford Catalysts following a merger with US company Velocys, commercialises superactive, superstable molecules from Oxford's Wolfson Catalysis Centre, headed by company co-founder Prof Malcolm Green. Neville Hargreaves, of Velocys, said: “We are just at the point of rolling out the commercialisation of our products. This one is particularly high-profile because it’s doing something that’s so sensible.’’ BA said the project was set to revolutionise the production of aviation fuel. About 575,000 tonnes per year of waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration, will instead be converted into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuel.

BA has made an 11-year commitment to purchase all 50,000 tonnes-a-year of the jet fuel produced. Due to be completed in 2017, the project is a world first.

Solena Fuels will convert the waste into gas using its own technology. In July 2012 it asked Velocys to provide technology to convert the gas into liquid fuel.

As well as the set-up income, Velocys — which last year made a pre-tax loss of £18m — expects to earn another £30m over the first 15 years of the plant’s operation.

Chief executive Roy Lipski said: “Velocys is pleased to be part of this ground-breaking project and to contribute to British Airway’s strategy for sustainable aviation, as well as Solena’s plans for similar projects worldwide.”

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said: “We are always striving to reduce our impact on climate change and this first-of-its-kind project marks a significant step for the aviation industry.

“The sustainable jet fuel produced each year will be enough to power our flights from London City Airport twice over with carbon savings the equivalent of taking 150,000 cars off the road.’’ Jonathon Counsell, head of environment at British Airways, said: “With the site selected, and world-class technology partners such as Velocys in place, this first-of-a-kind project is laying the foundations for BA to reduce its carbon emissions significantly.”

Robert Do, chief executive of Solena, said: “We are proud to have Velocys as part of the consortium of world-class companies assembled for the project.”

BA is providing construction capital and becoming a minority share holder in GreenSky.

Watch film footage of Willie Walsh discussing the project at FlyBritishAirways

A graphic of the process to turn waste into jet fuel can be seen at /index.php/our-solution