United agrees to purchase 15 million gallons of cost-competitive jet biofuel for LAX delivery starting in 2014
(photo: United Airlines)
Thu 6 June 2013 – United Airlines and AltAir Fuels have signed an agreement that will see flights operating out of the carrier’s Los Angeles hub using sustainable jet biofuel from as early as next year. Under the deal, the airline has committed to purchasing 15 million gallons of jet biofuel over a three-year period at a price competitive, it says, with conventional jet kerosene. AltAir expects to begin delivering 5 million gallons starting 2014. AltAir will retrofit part of an existing petroleum refinery near Los Angeles to produce around 30 million gallons of renewable jet biofuel, biodiesel and other associated products. The commercial-scale biorefinery will use process technology licensed from Honeywell’s UOP. The AltAir fuel is expected to achieve at least a 50 per cent reduction in GHG emissions on a lifecycle basis.
“This is a great day for United and the aviation biofuels industry,” announced United’s Managing Director for Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, Jimmy Samartzis. “This agreement underscores United’s efforts to be a leader in alternative fuels as well as our efforts to lead commercial aviation as an environmentally responsible company.”
AltAir CEO Tom Todaro said: “United Airlines has been a strategic partner for several years as we work to establish our biofuel facility. We cannot overestimate how important this milestone is for the commercialisation of sustainable aviation biofuels, and we at AltAir are proud that United is our first customer.”
AltAir has partnered with an existing oil refiner for the operation, which it says will be the first commercial refinery internationally to be capable of in-line production of both renewable jet and diesel fuels. The company has worked extensively, it adds, with UOP to demonstrate the commercial viability of the Honeywell Green Jet process.
The facility will convert non-edible natural oils and agricultural wastes into renewable fuels and chemicals. United, a member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, says it will support AltAir’s efforts to incorporate internationally recognised sustainability standards, such as those being developed by the multi-stakeholder Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.
“This refinery is important for two timely and significant reasons,” said AltAir’s President and COO Bryan Sherbacow. “First, the industry is delivering on the promise of commercial production of advanced biofuels that move beyond additives, like ethanol and biodiesel, to drop-in, replacement low-carbon fuels. Second, this project demonstrates the practical efficiencies these fuels allow by fully integrating into an operating petroleum refinery.”
United Airlines has already taken a number of pioneering steps in the development of alternative jet fuels. In 2009, United (or more accurately, Continental) became the first North American carrier to perform a two-engine aircraft demonstration flight using sustainable biofuels derived from algae and jatropha and the following year it operated the first flight by a North American commercial airline using synthetic fuel made from natural gas. In November 2011, the airline operated the United States’ first commercial passenger flight powered by a sustainable jet fuel blend.
In June 2012, United joined with Boeing, UOP, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust to launch the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative (MASBI), an effort by more than 40 organisations across the aviation biofuels supply chain to accelerate the commercialisation of advanced biofuels in the US Midwest.