United and United Airlines Ventures (UAV) announced an investment in and commercial agreement with Dimensional Energy. Dimensional Energy, which recently received a $3.1-million award from ARPA-E (earlier post), has developed a reactor and catalysts to convert CO2 and hydrogen from water into syngas for use in the Fischer-Tropsch process.
Under the commercial agreement, United has agreed to purchase at least 300 million gallons of SAF over 20 years from Dimensional.
Dimensional Energy was founded in Ithaca, New York, in 2016 and has spent the last six years refining its reactors and catalysts in both lab and real-world demonstrations. The company’s early success led to its status as a finalist in the first Carbon Xprize, and in September 2021, global climate technology nonprofit investor Elemental Excelerator funded Dimensional as part of its 10th cohort, which led to the company’s introduction to United.
Dimensional has also received grants from the National Science Foundation and both the Department of Energy’s ARPA-e and Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO). The company began construction on a CO2-to-fuels demo in Tucson, Arizona in 2021. Commissioning of the facility has already begun, and it is set to begin operation this July.
Dimensional’s technology can run on all forms of renewable energy. At the Tucson site, they are using electricity from the Arizona grid, which gets an increasing amount of power from local solar panels. Future plants are slated to use hydro-power, wind-power and rapidly maturing concentrated solar, which utilizes heat from direct sunlight.
Dimensional can also utilize carbon dioxide from a variety of sources, be it straight from industrial sites (like cement plants), from Direct Air Capture (a technology that can capture CO2 from anywhere in the world), and biological processes such as fermentation and biomass gasification.
The announcement marks UAV’s fourth SAF-related technology investment, but its first in the pathway of power-to-liquids which creates SAF synthetically without the constraints of feedstock growth that is prevalent in other biofuel pathways.
Launched in 2021, UAV targets startups, upcoming technologies, and sustainability concepts that will complement United’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets. UAV’s portfolio now includes SAF producers and other technologies including carbon capture, hydrogen-electric engines, electric regional aircraft, and urban air mobility.
United’s SAF agreements represent the largest volume of SAF of any airline over the next 20 years, based on publicly announced agreements.