United Airlines Becomes First U.S. Carrier to Use Aviation Biofuel

In a necessary move toward more sustainable means of airlift, United Airlines has become the first U.S. carrier to power commercial flights with aviation biofuel. Use of the renewable fuel on regularly scheduled flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco began last week, marking a milestone in the commercial aviation industry.

“[The] historic launch of regularly scheduled service utilizing advanced biofuels represents a major next step in our ongoing commitment to operate sustainably and responsibly,” said Angela Foster-Rice, United Airlines’ managing director of environmental affairs and sustainability. “United is a leader in the advancement of alternative fuels, and along with our partners at AltAir Paramount, we are taking action every day to minimize our impact on the environment and explore new ways to improve efficiency.”

The biofuel is stored and delivered the same way as traditional fuel. AltAir Paramount will supply United Airlines with 15 million gallons of biofuel over a three-year period, where it is contained at Los Angeles International Airport. The airline has partnered with AltAir since 2009, when it became the first U.S. carrier to conduct a biofuel demonstration flight. Two years later, United was the first U.S. carrier to launch a commercial advanced biofuel flight.

“AltAir Paramount and United are working together to lead the industry in the use of sustainable and homegrown biofuel,” said Bryan Sherbacow, AltAir’s president and chief operating officer. “Today’s launch demonstrates our commitment to helping United reduce its operational impact on the environment and advance the use of alternative fuels.”

The sustainable biofuel is processed at an AltAir Paramount refinery that pumps out 35 million gallons per year. The facility converts sustainably sourced non-edible, natural oils and agricultural waste into jet fuel, and is estimated to provide a 60 percent reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions compared to traditional jet fuel.

Last year, United Airlines furthered its commitment to renewable energy sources with a $30 million investment to Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., a U.S.-based alternative fuels developer and pioneer in converting municipal solid waste into low-cost aviation biofuel. The investment is the single largest contribution to alternative fuels by a U.S. airline. United was also a recent recipient of the World Bio Markets award for excellence in advanced biofuels.

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