United Airlines Plans 50% Emissions Reduction by 2050

by | Sep 18, 2018

United Airlines plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050, the airline announced. To reach its goal, the airline 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 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.

United Airlines has sourced more than 2 million gallons of sustainable aviation biofuel since 2016 and is responsible for more than 50% of the airline industry’s commitments to biofuel, according to the company.

Agrisoma has commercial agreements across the global aviation industry to supply Carinata for a low-carbon fuel that is “chemically identical to conventional, petroleum-derived jet fuel,” the company says. Agrisoma has Carinata growers in place throughout the Americas and Australia, where Carinata is grown as a second crop to complement existing crop production.

United was the first airline to use sustainable aviation biofuel on an ongoing daily basis. United has invested more than $30 million in sustainable aviation fuels producer Fulcrum BioEnergy, and has an agreement to purchase nearly a billion gallons from the company.

United was also the first airline to fly with Boeing’s Scimitar winglets, which reduce fuel consumption by an additional 2%; the airline is the largest Scimitar winglet operator today, with nearly 400 aircraft equipped with these winglets.

Compared to traditional jet fuel, biofuel can reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80%, according to Cathay Pacific, another airline that aims to reduce emissions by investing in alternative fuels.

“Biofuel is fuel. It’s not some gooey mess that’s going to clog up your engine,” Philippe Lacamp, senior vice president of Cathay Pacific Airways for the Americas, said at the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference last spring. “It has the same properties as fuel derived from hydrocarbon sources.”


Vendors Mentioned Above

AltAir Fuels

Agrisoma Biosciences

Fulcrum BioEnergy


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