Southwest Airlines Advances Sustainability Goals with SAFFiRE Renewables Acquisition

Southwest Airlines Jet coming in for a landing

Photo by Trac Vu on Unsplash

by | Apr 2, 2024

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Southwest Airlines has intensified its sustainability journey by acquiring SAFFiRE Renewables, LLC, as part of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Southwest Airlines Renewable Ventures, LLC (SARV) investment strategy. This strategic move should enhance Southwest’s capacity to secure scalable, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a critical component in the aviation industry’s transition to more sustainable practices.

Pioneering Renewable Ethanol for Aviation

SAFFiRE Renewables stands at the forefront of a Department of Energy-supported project to develop and produce scalable renewable ethanol, which can be further processed into SAF. Leveraging technology from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), SAFFiRE focuses on converting corn stover, an abundant agricultural residue in the U.S., into renewable ethanol. This initiative supports Southwest’s sustainability goals and contributes to the broader industry’s push toward environmental responsibility.

The collaboration between Southwest and SAFFiRE during the pilot project’s phase one in 2022 laid the groundwork for the upcoming phase two, which involves developing a pilot plant to produce renewable ethanol at Conestoga’s Arkalon Energy ethanol facility which is located in Liberal, Kansas. This plant will utilize NREL’s technology to process corn stover (at a rate of 10 tons per day) into renewable ethanol, which is subsequently converted into SAF by LanzaJet, Inc.

Strengthening Commitment to Net Zero Ambitions

Bob Jordan, President & CEO of Southwest Airlines, expressed the company’s confidence in SAFFiRE’s technology and its alignment with Southwest’s Nonstop to Net Zero plan. The acquisition is a testament to Southwest’s dedication to championing SAF and its pursuit of a sustainable future for air travel. Integrating SAFFiRE into Southwest’s operations is expected to accelerate the development and deployment of this essential technology.

Tom Nealon, President of SARV and CEO of SAFFiRE, highlighted the importance of renewable ethanol as a feedstock for high-volume, affordable SAF production. This acquisition follows Southwest’s investment in LanzaJet, emphasizing the airline’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions through innovative SAF production methods.

As Southwest Airlines continues its journey towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the acquisition of SAFFiRE Renewables represents a cumulative step in realizing the potential of sustainable aviation fuel. Visit their official website for more information on Southwest’s sustainability efforts and its Nonstop to Net Zero plan.

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