United Airlines and Honeywell are investing millions of dollars in a cleantech company that produces sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the two companies announced on September 9, 2021.

As part of the investment in Alder Fuels, United has agreed to purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from Alder when produced to United's requirements. The exact size of the investment was not disclosed.

“United's purchase agreement, which is one and a half times the size of the known purchase commitments of all global airlines combined, makes this easily the largest publicly announced SAF agreement in aviation history,” the airline states.

The airline said increasing SAF availability and usage was the fastest way to reduce emissions across its fleet. 

“However, to scale SAF as quickly as necessary, we need to look beyond existing solutions and invest in research and development for new pathways like the one Alder is developing," said United CEO Scott Kirby. 

Alder’s technology converts biomass such as forest and crop waste into a low-carbon, drop-in replacement crude oil that can be used to produce aviation fuel.

"Aviation poses one of the greatest technology challenges for addressing climate change and SAF has demonstrated the greatest potential,” commented Bryan Sherbacow, CEO of Alder. “However, there is insufficient raw material to meet demand.”

Sherbacow said Alder's technology “revolutionizes” SAF production by enabling the use of widely available, low-cost, and low-carbon feedstock.

The companies’ statement cites U.S. Department of Energy data that U.S. forestry and agricultural residues could provide enough biomass energy to generate more than 17 billion gallons of jet fuel. That could replace 75% of U.S. aviation fuel consumption. 

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