United and Honeywell announced a joint multimillion-dollar investment in Alder Fuels—a company that is developing technologies for producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at scale by converting abundant biomass, such as forest and crop waste, into sustainable low-carbon, drop-in replacement crude oil that can be used to produce aviation fuel.
When used together across the fuel lifecycle, the Alder technologies, coupled with Honeywell’s Ecofining process, could have the ability to produce a carbon-negative fuel at spec with today’s jet fuel. The goal of the technologies is to produce fuel that is a 100% drop-in replacement for petroleum jet fuel.
Honeywell will utilize its expertise and proven process of developing sustainable fuels alongside Alder, applying proprietary hydroprocessing design to the process to jointly commercialize the technology. Commercialization is expected by 2025.
As part of the agreement, United is committing to purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from Alder when produced to United’s requirements. United’s purchase agreement, which is one and a half times the size of the known purchase commitments of all global airlines combined, makes this the largest publicly announced SAF agreement yet. United’s purchase agreement with Alder surpasses the previous record set by the airline in 2015 through its investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy with its option to purchase up to 900 million gallons of SAF.
Since announcing our 100% green commitment in 2020, United has stayed focused on decarbonizing without relying on the use of traditional carbon offsets. Part of that commitment means increasing SAF usage and availability since it’s the fastest way to reduce emissions across our fleet. However, to scale SAF as quickly as necessary, we need to look beyond existing solutions and invest in research and development for new pathways like the one Alder is developing.
As a pioneer of the SAF market with UOP Ecofining technology, our work with United and Alder on this new technology will help transform the industry and support the growth of a zero-carbon economy. This solution will not only advance United’s SAF commitment but can help the aviation industry meet its commitments to decouple increases in carbon emissions from growth in passengers.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. forestry residues and agricultural residues alone could provide enough biomass energy to generate more than 17 billion gallons of jet fuel and displace 75% of US aviation fuel consumption. If the US were broadly to adopt regenerative agricultural practices—which capture more carbon in healthier soil compared to traditional methods—the US could generate an additional seven billion gallons of SAF, which would completely replace the US’ current fossil jet fuel consumption.
Prior to founding Alder, CEO Bryan Sherbacow built the world’s first SAF refinery utilizing Honeywell’s technology and subsequently contracted with United, enabling the airline to become the first globally to use SAF in regular operations on a continuous basis. Since then, United has purchased more SAF than any other airline and, with this agreement now, has more than 70% of the airline industry’s publicly announced SAF commitments.
Alder’s research is supported by the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, the DOE and a partnership with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), focused on developing technology to process organic waste and sustainable, non-food plant material into carbon-negative transportation fuels.