Electrification and Sustainability

United Signs International Purchase Agreement for Sustainable Aviation Fuel

United is the first U.S. airline to sign an international purchase agreement for sustainable aviation fuel. (Photo, courtesy of United)

This week, United Airlines announced a purchase agreement with Neste for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). United is now the first U.S. airline to sign an international purchase agreement for SAF, and will be able to buy more than 50 million gallons of SAF over the next three years. According to the announcement, the SAF purchased from Neste will fuel United flights from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Neste’s SAF is made from renewable waste and residue raw materials that are sustainably sourced. The process involves using hydrogen to turn cooking oil, animal fat, and other materials into HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) fuels, or SAF. As Neste increases production of SAF, the company may be able to supply SAF for United Airlines at additional airports around the world. Thorsten Lange, Executive Vice President of Renewable Aviation at Neste, expressed his excitement for the new partnership with United: “Our global, fast-growing SAF production and supply chain supports airlines and their customers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Neste will supply 2.5 million gallons of SAF to United Airlines in the first year of the agreement. United will be able to purchase 20 million gallons during the second year, and 30 million gallons in the third year of the agreement. (Photo courtesy of United)

This is the largest SAF purchase agreement made by Neste to provide SAF for a passenger airline. Neste has a goal of producing 515 million gallons of SAF annually, which it hopes to achieve by the end of next year.

Sustainable aviation fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel.  Lauren Riley, Chief Sustainability Officer at United, explained that reducing fuel emissions is the fastest way to achieve their sustainability goals. “The demand from our customers to limit their emissions from flying is growing exponentially, and this agreement means that United customers flying from Amsterdam and potentially other airports will be partners in our sustainability efforts,” she remarked in the airline’s announcement.

United Airlines has taken several steps to move towards the goal of zero emissions by 2050. Using more SAF in its operations is one of the fastest ways to reach that objective. (Photo courtesy of United)

United’s mission to reach net zero emissions by 2050 includes supporting the development of electric aircraft, as shown in their recent partnership with Archer Aviation. The two companies formed a joint advisory committee, announced in April, to support development of Archer’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. United has already agreed to purchase 200 eVTOL aircraft from Archer.

United also made headlines in December 2021 when they announced completion of the first commercial flight using 100% sustainable fuel. The aircraft transported more than 100 passengers from Chicago to Washington, D.C. and used 500 gallons of SAF. Boeing, CFM International, Virent, and World Energy supported this achievement.

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