Managing Director – Northeast Division
When 150 customers boarded United flight 708 departing Los Angeles on March 11, 2016, they became part of commercial aviation history. The Boeing 737 was powered by a blended biofuel made from agricultural waste and other natural byproducts.
At United, we’re excited about the innovation that alternative fuels bring to the airline industry. As a leader in advancing alternative fuels, we’re working with strategic partners to generate sustainable aviation biofuels capable of reducing our carbon emissions and providing energy diversification. One of these partners, AltAir Fuels, converts sustainable feed stocks, like non-edible natural oils and agricultural wastes, into low-carbon, renewable jet fuel. This biofuel is price-competitive with traditional, petroleum-based jet fuel, but achieves a greater than 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions on a life cycle basis when compared to traditional jet fuel. United is using a blend of 70 percent traditional jet fuel and 30 percent biofuel, so the fuel doesn’t require any modifications to aircraft engines or airport infrastructure. In the future, we will purchase up to 15 million gallons of sustainable aviation biofuel over a three-year period – enough to power the equivalent of 12,500 flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Additionally, in June 2015, we announced a partnership with Fulcrum BioEnergy to convert municipal solid waste (household trash) into low-cost, sustainable aviation biofuel. This biofuel is produced through an innovative, clean and efficient thermochemical process, and it has a greater than 80 percent reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions compared to conventional jet fuel. Our agreement with Fulcrum will reduce our carbon footprint, divert waste from landfills and create new jobs at the facilities located in the communities that support our hubs. We expect to take our first delivery of Fulcrum fuel by 2018.
Beyond biofuels, the aviation industry has established ambitious goals to reduce its carbon emissions, and we have made significant advances in fuel efficiency. Through new aircraft purchases, fleet modifications, operational improvements and other innovations, we have improved our fuel efficiency by 34 percent since 1994. Investing in biofuels is an important next step in continuing to operate a more sustainable airline.