United Airlines and Cemvita have announced an offtake arrangement in which United has agreed to purchase up to 1 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from Cemvita’s SAF plant. As a part of the agreement, Cemvita will provide 50 million gallons of its SAF product to United annually for 20 years.
SAF is a safe, sustainable alternative fuel that can be added to traditional jet fuels in order to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80%. Commercially used SAFs are typically made with cooking oil and agricultural waste, but Cemvita SAF works by using waste streams paired with carbon dioxide.
This offers the potential for Cemvita plants to be carbon-negative, and the technology also reportedly provides more reliable feedstock production with minimal land, water, and electricity use.
Earlier this year, United launched its Sustainable Flight Fund, aimed at supporting start-ups working to decarbonize air travel. Cemvita was one of the fund’s initial portfolio companies. According to Cemvita, United has invested in more SAF production than any other airline in the world.
United Airlines’ Pursuit of Air Travel Decarbonization
United Airlines has committed to the goal of reducing its greenhouse gases by 100% by 2050, without depending on carbon offsets. While an ambitious goal, it’s a necessary step in addressing the huge amount of carbon emissions caused by the transportation sector. This effort begins with decarbonizing fuel.
According to the company, only 0.1% of its overall fuel is currently SAF, largely because SAF has not yet become widely available for commercial use. Massive amounts of SAF will need to be produced in order to meet rising demand from airlines looking to address emissions. Recently, there have been announcements of a new SAF hub in Minnesota and another production site in Germany, but much more SAF production will be needed to meet decarbonization goals in the years to come. United reports that Cemvita’s efforts will bring significantly more SAF to the market.
“Since our initial investment last year, Cemvita has made outstanding progress, including opening their new pilot plant – an important step towards producing sustainable aviation fuel,” said Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures. “United is the global aviation leader in SAF production investment, but we face a real shortage of available fuel and producers. Cemvita’s technology represents a path forward for a potentially significant supply of SAF and it’s our hope that this offtake agreement for up to one billion gallons is just the beginning of our collaboration.”