Nov 15, 2019 - 3:45pm

United Became the First Airline to Fly on Sustainable Aviation Fuel in 2016

Ambitions

  • In September 2018, United became the first U.S. airline to publicly commit to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 50% by 2050. Achieving this goal would eliminate 21 million metric tons of CO2 in the atmosphere per year, equivalent to removing 4.5 million cars off the road or all of the cars in Los Angeles and New York City combined.

Investments

  • United has long been a pioneer in adopting new aircraft designs, including being one of the launch customers for the Boeing 787-10. The company has over 200 new aircraft on order and invests over $2 billion per year in new aircraft. United also has the airline industry’s single largest investment in a biofuel company – a $30 million equity investment in U.S.-based biofuel developer Fulcrum BioEnergy. Fulcrum will deliver 90 million gallons of renewable, lower carbon jet fuel per year at full capacity – nearly 1 billion gallons of biofuel over 10 years.

Innovation

Enhancing efficiency

  • Since 1990, United has improved its fuel efficiency more than 45%. The company made significant investments in a modern, fuel-efficient fleet while implementing operational and procedural changes to drive fuel conservation. Examples include aircraft and equipment weight reductions, single engine taxiing, continuous descent approaches that avoid applying thrust at low altitudes, saving fuel and reducing noise, and deploying ground support vehicles powered by electricity or alternative fuels. Facility efficiency is key as well: United has LEED certified buildings in Chicago, Houston, and San Francisco.

Sustainable aviation fuels

  • United works with strategic partners to generate sustainable aviation fuels capable of reducing its CO2 emissions and providing energy diversification. In 2016, it became the first airline globally to fly on sustainable aviation fuel daily. World Energy (formerly, AltAir Fuels) supplies the fuel to United’s Los Angeles hub. Using technology from Honeywell UOP, World Energy retrofitted a refinery in Paramount, California, into an advanced biofuel facility that converts feedstock, such as agricultural wastes and nonedible natural oils, into low carbon advanced biofuels. 
  • In 2015, United signed the largest sustainable aviation fuel commitment in aviation history when it partnered with Fulcrum BioEnergy, a company that has pioneered technology for converting waste and household trash into low-cost sustainable aviation fuel.

Sustainable products and waste management

  • United’s Flight for the Planet on World Environment Day 2019 was the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind in the history of aviation. On this flight, United became the first airline to demonstrate all of the following key actions on a single commercial flight: utilization of sustainable aviation biofuels, zero cabin waste efforts, carbon offsetting, and operational efficiencies. United conducted this flight to evaluate key measures of flying, especially regarding cabin waste, as sustainably as possible using the airline’s current technology and resources.

For more information, visit www.united.com/ecoskies.

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