United Airlines to develop sustainable fuel using ethanol

United Airlines Holdings has announced a new joint venture to develop and commercialise a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technology that will use ethanol as a feedstock.

The announcement comes at a time aircraft owners strive to curb emissions to become more environment friendly.

Blue Blade Energy, the joint venture formed by United Airlines, energy infrastructure company Tallgrass and biorefiner Green Plains, will see an investment of up to $50 million.

The new body will provide up to 135 million gallons of ethanol-based SAF annually, and up to 2.7 billion gallons in total under an offtake agreement, United Airlines said.

SAF, which uses feedstocks such as cooking oils to reduce emissions by up to 80% from conventional fuel, is viewed by many as a key development for the aviation sector, which accounts for nearly 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The JV expects to proceed with the construction of a pilot plant in 2024, followed by a full-scale facility that could begin commercial operations by 2028, United Airlines said.

The move is the latest significant announcement by the aviation industry as it seeks to grasp the mettle of a new sustainable future.

In December, TotalEnergies and Air France-KLM signed a memorandum of understanding for the supply of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) over a 10-year period starting in 2023.The fuel will be produced by TotalEnergies at its biorefineries, the statement said, adding that sustainable aviation fuel would allow savings of at least 80% of overall carbon emissions compared with conventional fossil fuels.Under the deal, TotalEnergies will deliver more than one million cubic metres (mcm) or 800,000 tonnes of SAF, mainly for flights leaving from Air France-KLM’s home countries France and the Netherlands.