JetBlue, United Airlines Tout Focus on Renewables with Major Announcements

by | Sep 21, 2018

Photo credit: ICAO

With an aviation industry-wide goal to cap net greenhouse gas growth from 2020 onward, renewable jet fuel is a key aspect of some airlines’ sustainability strategies, and two big announcements this week underscored that fact. United Airlines plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050, while JetBlue will be receiving its five new A321 aircrafts from the Airbus plant in Mobile, Ala., powered with renewable jet fuel blend.

To reach its goal, United Airlines will continue investing in newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft, implementing operational changes to conserve fuel, and expanding its use of more sustainable aviation biofuels, the company said.

The airline punctuated its announcement with a flight from San Francisco to Zurich using its most fuel-efficient aircraft – the Boeing 787 – fueled by a 30/70 blend of biofuel and conventional jet fuel. The biofuel comes from World Energy’s AltAir Fuels and is made from Carinata seeds from agri-tech company Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. The seeds are crushed to recover the oil and refined into jet fuel.

JetBlue has launched a series of flights powered in part by renewable jet fuel blend: the airline’s first use of the blend was for the delivery of its latest A321 aircraft from Airbus, with four more A321 aircraft coming from Airbus to follow throughout the rest of the year. The delivery flights will all use 15.5% renewable jet fuel blended with traditional jet fuel. The fuel is provided by Airbus and certified by Air BP.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes says the company’s goal is “to serve as a market-maker for renewable jet fuel, creating demand and therefore supporting supply.” The airline is actively working with Airbus to set up infrastructure for more options in the southeast region, Hayes adds.

Since May 2016, Airbus has offered customers the option of taking delivery of new aircraft from Toulouse, France, using a blend of sustainable jet fuel. Following the deliveries to JetBlue, Airbus will determine the next steps toward offering this option to more customers taking aircraft deliveries from Mobile. Longer term, Airbus envisions supporting industrial production of sustainable fuels for aviation in the southeastern US.


Industry Goals

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN specialized agency, adopted major environmental goals in 2004, including goals of limiting or reducing the impact of aviation emissions on local air quality and limiting or reducing the impact of aviation greenhouse gas emissions on the global climate.

The organization developed a range of standards, policies and guidance material to address these issues, including technological improvements, operating procedures, proper organization of air traffic, appropriate airport and land-use planning, and the use of market-based options. “All of this has contributed to aircraft operations that today can be 70% more efficient than in the 1970s,” the organization states.

According to the ICAO, other recent alternative fuel initiatives include a trial at Brisbane Airport in which blended alternative fuel was supplied directly into the airport’s fueling infrastructure. The alcohol-to-jet fuel, produced for this project by Gevo, powered 195 international and domestic flights departing from Brisbane Airport. And Alaska Airlines has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Neste, a supplier of renewable fuel, to help reach its goal of reducing the environmental impact of the aviation industry.

ICAO says that more than 100,000 commercial flights have used a blend of alternative fuel, and that there are currently five certified conversion processes to produce alternative fuel for aviation.


Getting It Done: Vendors and Organizations Mentioned Above




AltAir Fuels

Agrisoma Biosciences

Fulcrum BioEnergy


International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

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