United Airlines Launches Investment Fund To Support SAF Production

Airline and other companies including Boeing and JPMorgan Chase will use fund to invest in SAF startups.

United Airlines is leasing a group of companies investing in sustainable aviation fuel. [Credit: Shutterstock]

United Airlines said it has launched the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment vehicle “designed to support start-ups focused on decarbonizing air travel by accelerating the research, production and technologies associated with sustainable aviation fuel.”

United said the fund currently has more than $100 million in investments from the airline and its inaugural partners, including Air Canada, Boeing, GE Aerospace, Honeywell, and JPMorgan Chase. These and possibly other companies will use the fund to invest in startup companies, which United will identify, that are working on SAF production and technology, United said.

United said that in the past two years it has invested in a number of SAF startups including Cemvita, Dimensional Energy, and NEXT Renewable Fuels.

The airline also introduced a program under which people who buy tickets using the United website or app will have the option to contribute to supplement United's investment in the fund. The company said it will give 500 MileagePlus miles to the first 10,000 people who choose to contribute.

SAF is an alternative to conventional jet fuel that reduces emissions of greenhouse gas compared with the use of conventional fuel alone. SAF, which currently is blended with conventional jet fuel to meet regulatory requirements for use in aircraft, is made from used cooking oil and agricultural waste. In the future, United said, SAF could be made from other feedstocks, including household trash or forest waste.

"Solving climate change is doable but it requires hard work and real leadership," said United CEO Scott Kirby. "This fund is unique. It's not about offsets or things that are just greenwashing. Instead, we're creating a system that drives investment to build a new industry around sustainable aviation fuel, essentially from scratch. That's the only way we can actually decarbonize aviation." 

United said that to date, it has invested in the future production of more than three billion gallons of SAF, which it said is “the most of any airline in the world.”

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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