United’s June 5 ‘Flight for the Planet’ fueled with biofuel blend

By Erin Voegele | June 05, 2019

United Airlines made history June 5 with the departure of the Flight for the Planet, the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind in the history of aviation. The flight was fueled with biofuel and featured zero carbon waste efforts, carbon offsetting and operational efficiencies.

United said it is using its Flight for the Planet to evaluate key measures of flying as sustainably as possible using the airline’s current technology, resources and fuel-saving procedures. The flight departed from gate B12 at Chicago O’Hare destined for its eco-hub in Los Angeles, where sustainable aviation fuel has helped power all of the airlines flights from the Southern California hub since 2016.

The flight was fueled with a 30/70 blend of sustainable aviation fuel provided by World Energy and traditional jet fuel. United said the biofuel alone achieves a greater than 60 percent reduction in greenhouse (GHG) emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to traditional jet fuel, noting that the use of biofuel is one of the most effective ways an airline can reduce its impact on the environment.

In May, United renewed its contract with World Energy, agreeing to purchase up to 10 million gallons of aviation biofuel over the next two years. The contract renewable followed United’s original purchase agreement in 2013 with Paramount, California-based AltAir Fuels, the production assets of which World Energy acquired in March 2018. World Energy announced plans last year to increase capacity at the plant from 40 MMgy to 300 MMgy.  

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization released a statement in support of United’s Flight for the Planet. “United’s Flight for the Planet is a perfect example of how industrial biotechnology is reducing society’s carbon footprint and paving the way for sustainable travel,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO. “Biology-driven innovations—such as biofuels and biobased products—are helping preserve our planet, and it’s exciting to see global companies, like United, and consumers embracing these environmentally friendly advancements. We congratulate United on this historic aviation milestone and its commitment to growing the worldwide bio-based economy. BIO supports these efforts and will continue to champion policies that make the promises of biotechnology a reality.”