Fuel your body with the sugar in your morning cup of coffee or tea. And soon, you’ll be flying on a plane powered by it.
Before boarding a plane powered by 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby remarked, “This is a historic day, not only for United, not only for aviation but for the entire globe.” Kirby is based in Chicago (SAF).
In the demonstration flight, United’s new 737 Max 8 jets flew from O’Hare International Airport to Washington, D.C. SAF, a fuel designed to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions, was used for the first time by a commercial airline with passengers on board.
We’ve been dealing with climate change, and it’s a problem that our generation needs to address. If we don’t, “Kirby, who has made the SAF a primary priority for United, suggested that the consequences might be devastating.”
Virent, a Madison, Wisconsin-based company, supplied the SAF, which contained 500 gallons of sugar water and maize. One engine was powered by SAF, while the other was powered by conventional gasoline. Commercial airlines can employ up to 50% SAF on flights per federal regulations.
According to Virent’s Dave Kettner, the company’s president and general counsel: “We’re able to take sugar water and run it through a refining process, kind of similar to what petroleum is today, only we’ve got sugar water flowing in as well as some renewable gasoline as well.” To produce SAF, Virent has teamed together with United Airlines and Boeing.
During the demonstration flight, Kettner, who accompanied Kirby, stated that SAF can now be employed in aircraft without additional equipment. He asserted that it has a 35 per cent to 75 per cent lower carbon footprint than petroleum-based fuels when burned.
Kettner said a “100 per cent drop-in sustainable aviation fuel” will be used on the planes. Because it is compatible with today’s aeroplanes and their fueling infrastructure and all of their logistics, it could be inserted into the system without any additional effort on the part of the aircraft manufacturer.
To help the aviation sector go greener, Kettner expects SAF to be a game-changer.
Because it indicates that we have the technology, the fuel, and we’re ready to go, that’s huge.” For this technology to have a chance to grow and develop into something beneficial to everyone, we need to make sure that the policies are in place,” Kettner explained.
Kirby stated that United’s goal is to decrease carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2050, and SAF is a part of that effort.
“We are a difficult industry to decarbonize,” he stated. “We’re not going to be flying large planes tremendous distances on batteries,” he continues. A speculative technology that does something doesn’t even exist. We’ll need jet fuel to take off and land. As long as we’re travelling, “we need to do it sustainably.”
By 2030, Kirby estimates that the aviation industry will need to invest $250 billion to shift 10% of its fuel to SAF.
“This can be done, but it will require the cooperation of all of the partners,” he reaffirmed. “Without the proper government assistance, this can’t happen.” “This is a problem that only we can address.”
Eco-Skies Alliance, a partnership between United Airlines and Microsoft, Nike, and Siemens that will buy seven million gallons of SAF in 2021, was launched this year. According to United, that’s enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 66,000 metric tons.
Alder Fuels, a startup generating sustainable fuels from forestry and other woody debris, recently agreed to supply United with 1.5 billion gallons of SAF. Additionally, the airline is a significant investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy, a California startup producing SAF out of domestic garbage.
Recyclable waste has been transformed into low-cost and zero-carbon transportation fuels by Fulcrum in Reno, Nevada, which the company claims is the world’s first commercial-scale facility of its kind. Even more are planned, including one in the city of Gary that Fulcrum claims would produce drop-in transportation fuels using garbage from northern Indiana and the Chicago metropolitan area.