United Kicks Off Regular Biofuel Flights on West Coast

united ecoskies1-mediumOn Friday, March 11, United Airlines will debut its first commercial flight using a new biofuel blend called Honeywell Green Jet Fuel. The flight will travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The fuel is being produced by AltAir at an idled petroleum refinery in Paramount, California, just outside of LA, using process technology developed by Honeywell UOP. AltAIr is “a refiner of environmentally sustainable feedstocks for the production of jet and diesel fuels,” headquartered in Seattle. The Paramount facility is the “world’s first renewable fuels refinery with integrated jet fuel production capability.”

The relationship between United and AltAir goes back to 2013, when we first reported on their partnership announcement. At that time United committed to purchase 15 million gallons, which gave AltAir the means to convert the LA production facility, which is now producing 30 million gallons of renewable fuel for both military and commercial purposes per year.

Biofuels are an important component of the overall decarbonization of our transportation energy system, particularly in the aviation sector, where significant levels of electrification are still decades away. Not only is the existing infrastructure entirely based on liquid fuel, but the amount of energy per unit of weight, an extremely critical factor in aviation, is still far better with biofuel than it is in any electric propulsion technology available today.

The same plant that produces the jet fuel also produces Honeywell Green Diesel, a drop-in replacement for diesel made from petroleum, using the same process technology.

“Production by AltAir and Diamond Green Diesel demonstrates that the vision of producing real fuels from sustainable feedstocks has taken the crucial step from technology demonstration to commercial-scale production,” said Veronica May, vice president and general manager of Honeywell UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business. “Honeywell UOP is committed to continuing to advance its technology to give fuel producers options to use sustainable feedstocks.”

Both the renewable jet fuel and the green diesel are made from a range of sustainable feedstocks such as used cooking oil, inedible corn oil, tallow, camelina, jatropha and algae. The process is compatible with existing hydroprocessing equipment commonly used in today’s refineries, making it ideal for plants that can be converted to produce renewable fuels.

According to a Honeywell UOP press release, Honeywell Green Diesel offers up to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions versus chemically identical diesel from petroleum. Unlike biodiesel, Honeywell Green Diesel is a drop-in replacement for traditional diesel requiring no modifications to equipment or infrastructure.

Honeywell Green Jet Fuel can replace as much as 50 percent of the petroleum jet fuel used in flight, without any changes to the aircraft technology, while meeting the current ASTM jet fuel specifications. The result, depending on the feedstock, can be as much as a 65 to 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based jet fuel.

Back in January, the U.S. Navy’s Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike fleet of ships and aircraft, began using renewable fuel on regular deployments as part of the Navy’s efforts to demonstrate and deploy alternative sources of fuel, reduce energy consumption, decrease reliance on imported oil and significantly increase use of alternative energy. AltAir prepared 1.34 million gallons of F-76 type Naval Distillate Fuel for the launch. The renewable fuel will be blended with conventional petroleum fuel.

Image courtesy of United Airlines

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RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

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