United hopes to buy 5 million gallons of biofuel per year from AltAir Fuels – from “non-edible natural oils and agricultural wastes”?

US United Airlines has announced that it has executed a definitive purchase agreement with USA-based AltAir Fuels to buy allegedly “sustainable”advanced biofuels at commercial scale. In the partnership AltAir Fuels will retrofit part of an existing petroleum refinery near Los Angeles to produce some 30 million gallons per year, partly of  jet fuel and partly other diesel fuel.  United has agreed to buy 5 million gallons of the jet fuel each  year, for 3 years, starting in 2014, with the option to buy more. United has agreed a price for the fuel that is competitive with traditional, petroleum-based jet fuel. United says it will use this biofuel on flights from Los Angeles. The refinery will use the Honeywell Green Jet process. All they say about the feedstock is that it will be using “non-edible natural oils [probably camelina] and agricultural wastes” but they claim the fuel will have ” at least a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis” compared to conventional kerosene. Back in 2012 there was no mention of not competing with food crops, and in 2011 there was a flight using Solarzyme fuel of unknown source.



United Airlines teams with AltAir Fuels on biofuels initiative

Jun 05, 2013 (Ein)

Chicago-based carrier United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) said it executed a definitive purchase agreement with Seattle, USA-based AltAir Fuels for sustainable advanced biofuels at commercial scale.

Under the strategic partnership, AltAir Fuels will retrofit part of an existing petroleum refinery to become a 30m gallon, advanced biofuel refinery near Los Angeles, Calif. AltAir will produce low-carbon, renewable jet fuel and other renewable products.

United said it has collaborated with AltAir Fuels since 2009 and has agreed to buy 15m gallons of renewable jet fuel over a three-year period, with the option to purchase more.

The airline is purchasing the advanced biofuel at a price competitive with traditional, petroleum-based jet fuel, and AltAir expects to begin delivering five million gallons of renewable jet fuel per year to United starting in 2014. United will use the biofuel on flights operating out of its Los Angeles hub.

AltAir has partnered with an existing oil refiner for the operation of its first commercial facility and use of the refiner’s existing refinery near Los Angeles, Calif.

This partnership is taking idled refining equipment and retooling it to increase the nation’s energy supply positively impacting the southern California economy and providing the opportunity to sustainably power LAX flights.

Through process technology developed by Honeywell’s, AltAir is retrofitting the existing refinery to produce renewable biofuel. AltAir has worked extensively with Honeywell’s UOP to demonstrate the commercial viability of the Honeywell Green Jet process.

Utilising this technology, licensed from UOP, the AltAir facility aims to be the first refinery internationally to be capable of in-line production of both renewable jet and diesel fuels.

The facility will convert non-edible natural oils and agricultural wastes into approximately 30 m gallons of low-carbon, advanced biofuels and chemicals per year.

United said that the advanced biofuels are drop-in replacements for petroleum-based fuel, requiring no modification to factory-standard engines or aircraft, with which they are fully compatible.

This fuel provides the same performance as conventional, petroleum-based jet fuel. AltAir Fuels’ renewable jet fuel is expected to achieve at least a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis, it said.

For more information visit www.united.com/ecoskies and www.altairfuels.com.




Comment from a member of Biofuel watch

AltAir got a $2m grant from the US government to design a refinery in California so that it could turn camelina oil into jet fuel.  This was supposed to have opened in 2012 but I can’t find any indication that it has been.  Several US state governments are pushing camelina for biofuels.  Camelina is edible but growing it in larger monocultures is pretty experimental.  It looks a bit like oilseed rape but the yields are much lower, so it requires a lot more  land.  So whether AltAir will deliver any biofuels by 2014 – and whether those will actually be from camelina remains to be seen.




in 2011 –
AltAir announces camelina biofuels project in California

August 23, 2011

In California, AltAir Fuels plans to build a biojet plant in Bakersfield that will begin producing fuel in 2012. As a result, farmers in the Central and San Joaquin valleys are being encouraged to grow 25,000 acres of camelina under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

The five-year contracts are being offered by the US Farm Service Agency with a base-soil-rental-plus-50 percent incentive which could see farmers average $400 per acre for growing camelina. Another 25,000 acres are expected to enroll in the program for camelina growing in Washington and Montana.









United Airlines and AltAir Fuels to Bring Commercial-Scale, Cost-Competitive Biofuels to Aviation Industry

a long, waffly article with little actual content, about this biofuel announcement, from United.

United executes definitive purchase agreement for 15 million gallons of cost-competitive, commercial-scale, sustainable aviation biofuel to be used on flights departing LAX in 2014
AltAir Fuels’ renewable jet fuel expected to achieve at least a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis

CHICAGO, June 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — United Airlines today executed a definitive purchase agreement with AltAir Fuels for cost-competitive, sustainable, advanced biofuels at commercial scale, representing a historic milestone for aviation. With United’s strategic partnership, AltAir Fuels will retrofit part of an existing petroleum refinery to become a 30 million gallon, advanced biofuel refinery near Los Angeles, Calif. AltAir will produce low-carbon, renewable jet fuel and other renewable products.

……. and it goes on  ……. and on …… with no information whatsoever about the the feedstock for the fuels, what it will be (other than “non-edible oils and agricultural wastes” ) or where they will come from – and what other use they will have be diverted from.


About AltAir Fuels

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, AltAir Fuels (www.altairfuels.com) develops and operates projects for the production of low carbon fuels and chemicals derived from sustainable feedstocks. Its first project, a 30 million gallon per year facility is located near Los Angeles in southern California and will produce renewable jet and diesel fuel as well as other green intermediate chemicals. Jesta Group is the lead investor in AltAir.

Jesta Group is a diversified company with significant holdings in all classes of real estate and hospitality as well as in other important sectors of the economy, notably in the fields of manufacturing, technology and aviation. Jesta Group’s principal offices are located in London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Montreal and Los Angeles, having operations in 26 countries. Jesta Group’s President, Jason Aintabi, serves as Chairman of the board of AltAir.







United Airlines (Continental) biofuel flight on 7th Nov and Alaska Airlines on 9th Nov

6.11.2011The United flight is a Boeing 737-800 from Houston to Chicago, using 40% Solarzyme fuel, with allegedly “sustainable” of unknown composition. The Alaska Airlines’ 1st commercial  biofuel flight is Seattle to Washington. Alaska & its sister, Horizon Air, plan to fly 75 “selected” flights over the next few weeks using 20% fuel made from used cooking oil (a gimmick, as there is so little of the stuff) made by Dynamic Fuels. The fuel companies are in a race to scale up profitably.  https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=4678 .and


US Senate Airmed Services Committee votes that US military cannot use biofuel, due to price

May 27th, 2012

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted on May 24 to prohibit the US military from buying biofuel. This is only because it is more expensive than conventional fuels.  There had been much hope by the American biofuels industry that the US military would be an early adopting large customer, and get them going. The committee’s majority also voted to stop the Department of Defense from building its own biofuel refinery. However, United Airlines, Boeing, and UOP (part of Honeywell) have joined with the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Clean Energy Trust to form MASBI, the the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative, They plan to “unlock the Midwest’s economic potential for advanced biofuels ” etc etc. probably from crops. No mention of not competing with food etc, just creating jobs. 


United, Boeing and UOP Join Big Push for Biofuels