Agreement with United Airlines, biofuel companies could ramp up SAF production

A pair biofuel companies and United Airlines have announced a joint venture to develop and commercialize Sustainable Aviation Fuel that uses ethanol as a feed stock.

Speaking to Brownfield before the announcement, Chief Financial Officer Jim Stark with Nebraska-based Green Plains says partnerships like this will help ramp up production.  “We believe that ethanol has the best pathway to get to sustainable aviation fuel through alcohol-to-ject or ethanol-to-ject technologies, but in order for that to happen for us we need to have a much lower CI score than what we have today.”

The airline, Green Plains and Tallgrass, an energy and carbon pipeline company, will invest $50 million in SAF technology called Blue Blade.

Stark says this will help reduce the carbon intensity score of the fuel. “For our ethanol to qualify for the pathway, it’s got to be well below a 50 threshold.  In order to get there, it’s going to take an opportunity for us to get there to be on a pipeline to reduce and sequester the carbon we admit.”

Blue Blade is expected to being with a pilot facility in 2024 followed by a full-scale facility that could begin commercial operations by 2028.  The agreement could provide enough SAF to fly more than 50,000 flights annually between United’s airports in Chicago and Denver.

Green Plains also partners with Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions, another carbon pipeline and sequestration project announced last year.

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