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United Airlines commits to a cleaner future; becomes first U.S. airline to pledge to reduce own emissions by 50 percent by 2050

United Airlines Boeing 737-924 ER WL N75432 (msn 32835) (Eco-Skies) IAD (Brian McDonough). Image: 922859.

United Airlines today made history by becoming the first U.S. airline to publicly commit to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, further strengthening the carrier’s ambition to be the world’s most environmentally conscious airline. United’s pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent relative to 2005 represents the equivalent of removing 4.5 million vehicles from the road each year, or the total number of cars in Los Angeles and New York City combined. The airline will continue to invest in the company’s ongoing environmental initiatives to support this commitment, including expanding the use of more sustainable aviation biofuels, welcoming newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft into its fleet and implementing further operational changes to better conserve fuel.

“At United, we believe there is no point in setting challenging and ambitious goals without also taking tangible steps towards achieving them, especially when it comes to securing the health of our communities and our planet,” said Oscar Munoz, United’s chief executive officer. “While we’re proud to be first U.S. carrier taking such an ambitious step, it is a distinction we look forward to sharing as the rest of the industry catches up and makes similar commitments to sustainability.”

Sustainable Aviation Biofuel Flight from San Francisco to Zurich

To celebrate this significant milestone, United will operate flight 44 tomorrow from its hub in San Francisco to Zurich with the carrier’s most fuel-efficient aircraft – the Boeing 787 – via a blend of sustainable aviation fuel supplied by World Energy’s California-based AltAir Fuels. The airline will use 16,000 gallons of biofuel at a 30/70 blend with conventional jet fuel for the flight to Zurich, representing the longest transatlantic flight to date – and longest by a U.S. airline – powered by a biofuel volume of this size. United has sourced more than 2 million gallons of sustainable aviation biofuel since 2016 and is responsible for more than 50 percent of the airline industry’s commitments to biofuel.

United’s Commitment to the Environment

United’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions represents yet another first for the airline in an extensive list of innovative initiatives undertaken to reduce its impact on the environment. Several of United’s most significant environmental achievements include:

  • Becoming the first airline globally to use sustainable aviation biofuel on an ongoing daily basis, marking a significant milestone in the industry by moving beyond test programs and demonstrations to the everyday use of low-carbon biofuels in ongoing operations.
  • Investing more than $30 million in California-based sustainable aviation fuels producer Fulcrum BioEnergy, which remains the single largest investment by any airline globally in alternative fuels. United’s agreement to purchase nearly 1 billion gallons from Fulcrum BioEnergy is the largest offtake agreement for biofuel in the airline industry.
  • Becoming the first airline to fly with Boeing’s Scimitar winglets, which reduce fuel consumption by an additional 2 percent; United is the largest Scimitar winglet operator today, with nearly 400 aircraft equipped with these winglets.
  • Becoming the first U.S. airline to repurpose items from the carrier’s international premium cabin amenity kits and partnering with Clean the World to donate hygiene products to those in critical need.
  • Eliminating non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on aircraft and replacing them with an environmentally-friendly product made of 100 percent bamboo.
  • Continuing to replace its eligible ground equipment with cleaner, electrically powered alternatives, with nearly 40 percent of the eligible fleet converted to date.

United’s Award-Winning Eco-Skies Program

United’s award-winning Eco-Skies program represents the company’s commitment to the environment and the actions taken every day to create a sustainable future. In 2017, Air Transport World magazine named United the Eco-Airline of the Year for the second time since the airline launched the Eco-Skies program. This year, United Airlines ranked No. 1 among global carriers in Newsweek’s Global 500 Green Rankings, one of the most recognized environmental performance assessments of the world’s largest publicly traded companies.

Top Copyright Photo (all others by United): United Airlines Boeing 737-924 ER WL N75432 (msn 32835) (Eco-Skies) IAD (Brian McDonough). Image: 922859.

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United Airlines purchases a stake in Fulcrum BioEnergy for $30 million

United Airlines (Chicago) today announced an historic $30 million equity investment in U.S.-based alternative fuels developer Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., a pioneer in the development and commercialization of converting municipal solid waste into low-cost sustainable aviation biofuel. It is also the single largest investment by a U.S. airline in alternative fuels and sets United apart in the aviation industry in the advancement of aviation biofuels and carbon emissions reductions. In addition to the equity investment, United and Fulcrum have entered into an agreement that contemplates the joint development of up to five projects located near United’s hubs expected to have the potential to produce up to 180 million gallons of fuel per year.

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Fulcrum Video:

United has also negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum and, subject to availability, will have the opportunity to purchase at least 90 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel a year for a minimum of 10 years at a cost that is competitive with conventional jet fuel. This alternative fuel will be a drop-in fuel that meets all of the airline’s technical requirements and specifications, and will power the aircraft in the same way as conventional jet fuel. Fulcrum expects its first alternative fuels plant to begin commercial operation in 2017.

Fulcrum’s Waste-to-Biofuel Technology

Fulcrum’s technology converts household trash, known as municipal solid waste (MSW), into renewable jet fuel. Fulcrum’s renewable jet fuel is expected to provide a greater than 80 percent reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions when compared to conventional jet fuel. Fulcrum
has successfully developed and proven its technology to convert MSW into low-cost, low-carbon transportation fuels in an innovative, clean and efficient thermochemical process. MSW is an attractive biofuel feedstock as it is low cost, has limited volatility and a virtually unlimited supply. United’s agreement with Fulcrum is expected to decrease the airline’s carbon footprint through the use of sustainable aviation biofuel, while also diverting waste from landfills and creating new jobs in those communities where new Fulcrum facilities are sited. Fulcrum’s projects have also received support and participation from the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy for the future production of fuel that meets military specifications.

United From Trash to Energy poster (UA)(LR)

 

United’s Track Record in Aviation Biofuels

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United is the first U.S. airline to invest in a biofuel company. It is another in a series of firsts for the airline which, since 2009, has made significant investments in the advancement of sustainable aviation biofuels.

In 2009, United made history as the first North American carrier to perform a two-engine aircraft demonstration flight using sustainable biofuels.

In 2011, United operated the first U.S. passenger flight powered by advanced biofuels made from algae.

In 2012, United spearheaded the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuel Initiative (MASBI), a public/private partnership of experts from across the Midwest Region, to accelerate the commercialization of advanced biofuels for aviation.

In 2013, United announced an agreement with AltAir Fuels for advanced aviation biofuels to be used on flights out of the airline’s Los Angeles hub, making it the first U.S. carrier to execute a commercial scale agreement for aviation biofuels. United expects to begin regularly scheduled flights using AltAir’s fuel later this year.

In 2015, United received the World Bio Markets (WBM) Award for Excellence in Advanced Biofuels.

United Eco-Skies logo

Top Copyright Photo: Tony Storck/AirlinersGallery.com. United’s Boeing 737-924 ER N75432 (msn 32835) is painted in this special Eco-Skies livery (inherited from Continental Airlines). N75432 lands at Baltimore/Washington (BWI).

United Airlines aircraft slide show (current livery): AG Airline Slide Show

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