The companies expect AltAir Fuels’ renewable jet fuel to achieve at least a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis.
According to the agreement, 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 at the refinery. United will buy 5 million gallons of biofuel per year over a three-year period with the option to purchase more.
The companies say the biofuel price will be competitive with petroleum-based jet fuel.
AltAir will use process technology developed by Honeywell’s UOP to retrofit the existing refinery near Los Angeles and says the facility will be the first refinery internationally to be capable of in-line production of both renewable jet and diesel fuels. The facility will convert nonedible 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.
United says it will support AltAir Fuels’ efforts to incorporate internationally recognized sustainability standards, such as those being developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.
In 2009, United Airlines became the first North American carrier to perform a two-engine aircraft flight demonstration using sustainable biofuels derived from algae and jatropha. United also operated the first flight by a North American commercial airline using synthetic fuel made from natural gas in 2010. A year later, United operated the first US commercial flight powered by advanced biofuels.
Last summer, United, along with the Boeing Company, Honeywell’s UOP, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust, launched the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative (MASBI). MASBI is an effort by more than 40 organizations across the aviation biofuels supply chain to accelerate the commercialization of advanced biofuels in the Midwest.
United Airlines is also a signatory to the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, whose members represent approximately 32 percent of commercial aviation fuel demand. United signed a pledge to pursue the advancement of drop-in biofuels that achieve important sustainability criteria, work with leading organizations to achieve biofuel certification standards and take actions to enable commercial use of aviation biofuels.