United is banking that a biofuel made from household waste will be the jet fuel of the future.
On Tuesday, United Airlines announced a $30 million investment in solid waste. The legacy carrier’s capital investment in Nevada-based Fulcrum BioEnergy is expected to help boost the amount of commercial-grade alternative aviation fuel available to the airline industry.
Fulcrum BioEnergy has pioneered a process that allows jet fuel to be extracted from organic household waste.The aviation grade fuel produced by the company is a “drop-in fuel” that meets the requirements for use in commercial and military aircraft already in service today.
United describes its investment in Fulcrum as both good for the future of the planet and the future of the airline industry.
“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,” United Vice President Brett Hart said of the remarkable venture. “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.”
In exchange for its investment in Fulcrum, United will eventually see facilities that convert organic waste to jet fuel constructed near the airline’s largest hubs. The deal will give the airline a chance to purchase as much 90 million gallons of biofuel at prices competitive with traditional jet fuel prices for at least the next 10 years. Fulcrum expects to produce enough aviation quality biofuel to begin fueling regularly scheduled flights by 2017.
The pact announced Tuesday isn’t United’s first foray into the sustainable energy market. United inked a deal with Alt Air fuels in 2013 and expects to begin regularly scheduled flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) using Alt Air biofuel later this year. The carrier was the first North American airline to test biofuels in its aircraft and the first to operate a commercial flight powered by algae-based biofuel.
[Photo: United Airlines]