United Airlines has signed a purchase agreement with AltAir Fuels for cost-competitive, sustainable, advanced biofuels at commercial scale, representing a historic milestone for aviation.
Under the partnership, AltAir Fuels will retrofit part of an existing petroleum refinery to become a 30 million gallon, advanced biofuel refinery near Los Angeles, Calif. AltAir will produce low-carbon, renewable jet fuel and other renewable products (1 US gallon=3.74 litres).
United has been collaborating with AltAir Fuels since 2009 and has agreed to buy 15 million gallons of lower-carbon, renewable jet fuel over a three-year period, with the option to purchase more. The airline is purchasing the advanced biofuel at a price competitive with traditional, petroleum-based jet fuel, and AltAir expects to begin delivering five million gallons of renewable jet fuel per year to United starting in 2014. United will use the biofuel on flights operating out of its Los Angeles hub (LAX).
“This is a great day for United and the aviation biofuels industry. 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,” said United’s managing director for Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability Jimmy Samartzis.
“United Airlines has been a strategic partner for several years as we work to establish our biofuel facility,” said AltAir’s chief executive officer Tom Todaro. “We cannot overestimate how important this milestone is for the commercialization 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 of its first commercial facility and use of the refiner’s existing refinery near Los Angeles, California. This partnership is taking idled refining equipment and, through process technology developed by Honeywell’s UOP, AltAir is retrofitting the existing refinery to produce renewable biofuel. The facility will convert non-edible natural oils and agricultural wastes into approximately 30 million gallons of low-carbon, advanced biofuels and chemicals per year.
These advanced biofuels are drop-in replacements for petroleum-based fuel, requiring no modification to factory-standard engines or aircraft, with which they are fully compatible. This fuel provides the same performance as conventional, petroleum-based jet fuel. AltAir Fuels’ renewable jet fuel is expected to achieve at least a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis.