Alaska Airlines inks agreement to purchase Gevo's alcohol-to-jet fuel as certification edges closer
Wed 13 May 2015 – Alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel producer Gevo has signed a “strategic alliance” agreement with Alaska Airlines under which the airline will purchase an undisclosed quantity of the Gevo renewable fuel and include the first-ever commercial flight to use ATJ. The fuel has been undergoing rigorous engine testing, evaluation and data analysis in efforts to have it certified by fuel standards body ASTM International for use in commercial airline operations. Having gone through a six-year process, Gevo is expecting approval of its fuel during the second half of this year, after which a single demonstration flight will take place. A 50/50 blended Gevo ATJ fuel has already been flight tested at supersonic speed by a US Navy fighter aircraft last December. Alaska has targeted the use of sustainable aviation biofuel at one or more of its airports by 2020.
“Developing a domestic, competitively-priced, sustainable supply of biofuels is fundamental to the future of American aviation,” said Joe Sprague, SVP External Relations, at Alaska Airlines. “The cost of fossil-based jet fuel is one of the largest expenses for airlines. This investment in Gevo’s ATJ will help reduce our exposure to high fuel prices, minimise our carbon footprint and demonstrate growing demand for fuel alternatives.”
Alaska was the first to fly multiple commercial passenger flights using sustainable biofuel when in November 2011 it and its sister airline Horizon Air flew 75 flights between Seattle and Washington DC and Seattle and Portland using a blended fuel sourced from used cooking oil (see article).
Gevo is producing ATJ at its demonstration biorefinery in Texas using isobutanol produced as a feedstock through a proprietary technology process at a fermentation plant in Minnesota. Last year, the renewable jet fuel underwent testing and analysis by Lufthansa as part of the ASTM evaluation (see article). In March this year, NASA announced it had purchased Gevo ATJ fuel for aviation use at its research centre in Cleveland, Ohio (see article).
“A sustainable biofuels industry would help insulate airlines from fuel price spikes, enabling them to offer economical air travel while helping meet their environmental goals, and spur economic growth within and outside aviation,” said Gevo CEO Dr Patrick Gruber. “We greatly appreciate Alaska Airlines as a commercial partner as we move towards commercialisation.”
Presenting the company’s first quarter results yesterday, which showed hydrocarbon revenues of $500,000 that were primarily related to the shipment of ATJ fuel to the US military, Gruber said: “By the end of 2015, Gevo expects to be in an excellent position to meaningfully grow its jet fuel business, both for commercial airlines and military applications.”