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May 20, 2024
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United Airlines plans to triple SAF use in 2023 to 10m gallons, tripling the 2022 level and ten times that of 2019.

The airline further reports it will begin using a blend of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on flights from San Francisco International Airport. It plans to use a SAF blend at London Heathrow Airport later this year.  United has invested in SAF production for over five billion gallons, which is more than any airline. United used SAF blends at Los Angeles International Airport since 2016 and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam since 2022 and will continue to use SAF at those airports.

Copyright Thomas Vangel Photography

Neste provides the SAF that United is using in San Francisco and Amsterdam. Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel™ is produced from sustainably sourced, 100% renewable waste and residue raw materials, including used cooking oil and animal fat waste. Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%5 over the fuel’s life cycle, compared to conventional jet fuel. Future SAF supplies could come from other feedstocks, including household trash, forest waste, algae, or compressed CO2.

SAF deliveries began at San Francisco Airport in April, with United receiving 1.5 million gallons for departing flights; the remainder of United’s SAF supply will be used at Los Angeles International Airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. London Heathrow Airport is expected to begin receiving deliveries of SAF later in 2023. Once the London Heathrow SAF is delivered, it will mark the first time United will participate in London Heathrow’s SAF incentive program.

The aviation industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, contributing to economic growth, job creation, and global connectivity. It also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for roughly 2% of global emissions. The aviation industry is responsible for reducing its carbon footprint by transitioning to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). But SAF production faces challenges that must be addressed to make it a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Let’s look at the problems facing the production of sustainable aviation fuel.

One of the main problems facing SAF production is the lack of adequate infrastructure. SAF is produced from renewable sources like biomass, waste, and algae. The output of SAF also requires significant investment in infrastructure, such as refineries, pipelines, and storage facilities—only a few SAF production plants, mainly in Europe and North America. The lack of infrastructure makes producing SAF at scale and transporting it to airports difficult. Canada is developing a SAF supply chain.

author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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