United begins regular use of commercial-scale volumes of AltAir's renewable jet biofuel on flights from LAX
(photo: United Airlines)
Wed 16 Mar 2016 – United Airlines has begun using sustainable aviation biofuels on regular commercial flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the first US airline to use commercial-scale volumes beyond demonstration flights and test programmes. The flights will use a blend of 30% renewable jet fuel and 70% conventional jet kerosene supplied by AltAir Paramount using Honeywell UOP’s process technology, which converts non-edible animal fats and oils into renewable fuels. In a collaboration that goes back to 2009, United has agreed to purchase up to 15 million gallons of renewable fuel from AltAir over a three-year period. The ASTM-standard fuel is expected to provide a greater than 60% reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions and AltAir is currently pursuing RSB sustainability certification. Last year, United announced a $30 million equity investment in municipal solid waste to jet fuel developer Fulcrum BioEnergy.
United said it would initially use the AltAir blended fuel for two weeks on LAX-SFO flights while supplies were integrated into regular operations at Los Angeles International. The quantity purchased would be sufficient for around 12,500 flights on the San Francisco route, says the airline, and has an option to acquire more.
“This historic launch of regularly scheduled service utilising advanced biofuels represents a major next step in our ongoing commitment to operate sustainably and responsibly,” said Angela Foster-Rice, United’s Managing Director of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability.
Parts of a refinery in Paramount, California, were retrofitted by AltAir with Honeywell UOP’s proprietary renewable jet fuel process technology to establish the world’s first dedicated commercial-scale renewable jet fuel production facility. The plant has capacity for producing around 35 million gallons per year of advanced renewable fuels and is also capable of producing renewable green diesel, which, unlike biodiesel, is a drop-in replacement for diesel made from petroleum, says UOP.
“United’s commitment to using renewable fuel in everyday service is a significant milestone in the adoption and use of sustainable fuels,” said Veronica May, VP and GM of Honeywell UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business. “We have developed a versatile portfolio of technologies that can produce renewable diesel and jet fuel, and we’ve seen a range of uses including commercial and military aircraft, bus fleets and ships.”
As part of United’s partnership with Fulcrum, up to five biofuel refineries located near US hub airports are planned, with a total annual production of up to 180 million gallons of sustainable jet fuel, of which the airline would purchase at least 90 million gallons each year for a minimum of 10 years, subject to availability. Fulcrum expects its first plant will begin commercial operation in 2017, with deliveries of jet fuel to United starting the following year.