LISTEN: LanzaJet's new Freedom Pines plant in Soperton is expected to produce 9 million gallons of sustainable jet fuel annually. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

LanzaJet's Freedom Pines facility is located in Soperton, Georgia, about halfway between Savannah and Macon.

LanzaJet's Freedom Pines facility is located in Soperton, Georgia, about halfway between Savannah and Macon.

Credit: LanzaJet

Georgia is now home to the world's first sustainable jet fuel factory to use “alcohol-to-jet” technology, which converts ethanol to lower-carbon jet fuel for commercial aircraft.

Suburban Chicago-based LanzaJet unveiled on Wednesday its Freedom Pines facility in rural Soperton, about halfway between Savannah and Macon, before an audience of more than 200 people including state and federal government leaders.

Known within the aviation and energy industries as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the fuel produced at Freedom Pines will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% compared to conventional jet fuel, according to LanzaJet.

“It's importantly a milestone for us as an industry because we've been working together to do this for 14 years,” said LanzaJet CEO Jimmy Samartzis, referring to the company's research and development in collaboration with the federal government's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “It's an impact on aviation sustainability, clean tech, agricultural climate, tech industries across the board.”

Freedom Pines will produce 9 million gallons of SAF and 1 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel each year. Much of the ethanol used in the process will come from feedstocks such as corn and soybeans sold to the company by farmers, as well as niche crops meant specifically for SAF, such as carinata.

The federal government in 2021 released a plan for the aviation sector to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within the industry by 2050. The plan defines greenhouse gasses as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

“If we're really to mitigate the consequences of a changing climate, the transportation sector clearly has to get to a net-zero future,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said at the event. “In order for it to get to a net-zero future, aviation has to get there as well. And it can't get there without a sustainable aviation fuel.”

The local Treutlen County economy will see an estimated $5 million in new wages and $70 million in annual economic activity, according to LanzaJet. Freedom Pines will create 30 direct jobs and 30-50 indirect jobs during its ongoing operations.

“They're joining the ranks of many others that are coming here as a result of Georgia being such a great place to do business,” Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, a Republican, said. “I mean, would you ever think that a ruby-red state like Georgia would capture so much of this clean energy money? Rivian Hyundai, SK Battery, the largest solar plant in North America. We are just gobbling it up.”

Construction of Freedom Pines, which began in August 2022, is mostly complete. LanzaJet expects it to begin production of SAF by the end of March.

The world's first transatlantic flight powered entirely by SAF took off from Georgia last November, when a Gulfstream jet performed an experimental flight from its Savannah headquarters to Farnborough Airport near London.