Carrier Invests $30 Million in California’s Fulcrum BioEnergy,
And Wants to Buy 90 Million Cost-Competitive Gallons Per Year
United Airlines is talking up “an historic $30 million equity investment” in Pleasanton, Calif.-based Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. which has developed a process for converting municipal solid waste into low-cost sustainable aviation biofuel.
It is, the carrier says, “the single largest investment by a U.S. airline in alternative fuels and sets United apart in the aviation industry in the advancement of aviation biofuels and carbon emissions reductions.”
United further reports a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum and said that, subject to availability, it “will have the opportunity to purchase at least 90 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel a year for a minimum of ten years at a cost that is competitive with conventional jet fuel.
‘A Drop-In Fuel’
“This alternative fuel will be a drop-in fuel that meets all of the airline’s technical requirements and specifications, and will power the aircraft in the same way as conventional jet fuel.”
Fulcrum expects its first alternative fuels plant to begin commercial operation in 2017, United says. “We expect to start receiving fuel the following year,” a spokesman says.
A further agreement “contemplates the joint development of up to five projects located near United’s hubs expected to have the potential to produce up to 180 million gallons of fuel per year.
‘Vital to the Future of Aviation’
“We know alternative fuels is an emerging industry that is vital to the future of aviation and this is just one of our initiatives to help make these fuels saleable and scalable,” said United executive VP and general counsel Brett Hart said in the Fulcrum equity investment release. “Investing in alternative fuels is not only good for the environment, it’s a smart move for our company as biofuels have the potential to hedge against future oil price volatility and carbon regulations.”
United says that in 2009, it was the first North American carrier to perform a two-engine aircraft demonstration flight using sustainable biofuels. In 2011, United operated the first U.S. passenger flight powered by advanced biofuels made from algae.
Two year ago, United publicized an agreement to purchase biofuels from AltAir Fuels. The spokesman told F&F today that the airline expects to begin using aviation biofuels from AltAir agreement at its Los Angeles hub later this summer.
Contact information is only available to premium subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
Source: United Airlines with Fleets & Fuels follow-up