"Accelerating Development
& Commercialization of
Sustainable Aviation Fuel"

Case Study: United

United Airlines: Building a sustainable future powered by biofuels

United Airlines is committed to leading commercial aviation as an environmentally responsible company by taking actions today that will help shape a sustainable future. A key focus within this commitment is the advancement and utilization of sustainable alternative aviation fuels. At United we believe that alternative fuels represent an important pathway for the aviation industry to reduce its dependence on traditional fossil-based jet fuels, lower its impact on the environment, enhance national security, and support economic growth.

In demonstration of that commitment, United Airlines operated the first U.S. commercial flight powered by advanced biofuels on November 7th 2011. Flight 1403, a Boeing 737-800, flew passengers from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport using a blend of 40% algae based, advanced biofuel and 60% traditional petroleum derived jet fuel.

Biofuel for the flight was supplied by Solazyme, a leading renewable oil and bioproducts company. Solazyme's algae-derived renewable jet fuel, Solajet, was manufactured via Solazyme's proprietary fermentation process and renewable jet fuel processing technology from Honeywell's UOP. Solajet fully complies with the ASTM D7566 specification for Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene from Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids. Solazyme has completed a greenhouse gas (GHG) life cycle assessment of their algae-derived aviation biofuel and has concluded that the savings represent an approximate 85% reduction in GHG emissions over conventional jet fuel.

Prior to the flight, United provided notification to employees, customers and media that Flight 1403 would operate with sustainable biofuels. United held a press conference on the day of flight and several representatives of the media joined in the journey from Chicago to Houston. United’s flight was featured in numerous media publications and was deemed a success by the many stakeholders who came together to make journey on biofuels a reality. Customers, staff and industry participants were excited to be part of the historic event and both the aircraft and fueling operations provided equivalent performance to conventional fuel.

In addition to launching the first commercial biofuel flight, on that same day United also announced a Letter of Intent with Solazyme to negotiate the purchase of up to 20 million gallons of algae based aviation biofuel beginning as early as 2014. The 1st U.S. commercial biofuel flight and long term partnership with Solazyme represent important sustainability milestones in the company’s commitment towards advancing the use of environmentally responsible and cost effective biofuels and build upon a legacy of pioneering actions. In 2009 United Airlines became the first North American carrier to perform a two-engine aircraft flight demonstration using sustainable biofuels derived from algae and jatropha and in 2010 conducted the first flight by a U.S. commercial airline using synthetic fuel made from natural gas.