United Airlines Airbus A320-232 On Taxiway
Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Aviation Fuel From Carbon Dioxide: United Airlines to Collaborate With Biotechnology Company

This is not about a lot of hot air.

In its latest venture towards operating a more sustainable commercial airline, United Airlines Ventures and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures announced a collaboration with Cemvita Factory — which is a biotechnology firm that is based in Houston — to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuel which is intended to be developed through a revolutionary new process using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes.

Aviation Fuel From Carbon Dioxide: United Airlines to Collaborate With Biotechnology Company

Cemvita Factory uses synthetic biology to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals and alternative fuels — including sustainable aviation fuel, which is an alternative to jet fuel that uses non-petroleum feedstock and offers lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. As the third technology which is related to sustainable aviation fuel to receive an equity investment from United Airlines Ventures, Cemvita Factory is among the first to employ this technology to support heavy industry decarbonization — as well as find ways to use microbiology to turn carbon dioxide into fuel.

“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”, according to this official press release from United Airlines. “United has aggressively pursued strategic investments in SAF producers and revolutionary technologies including carbon capture, hydrogen-electric engines, electric regional aircraft, and urban air mobility. SAF has the potential to deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint on a lifecycle basis.”

United Airlines Ventures and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures have previously worked together on new approaches to combat climate change; and will together fund development work at Cemvita Factory to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons for sustainable aviation fuel. If performance targets are achieved, United Airlines Ventures and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures plan to form a joint venture to commercialize the technology, which includes funding projects such as pilot and demonstration plants, engineering studies, financing construction, and operating sustainable aviation fuel plants.

Gasoline Can Be Manufactured Out of Carbon Dioxide, Too

Based in the Vancouver metropolitan area, Carbon Engineering — which was founded in 2009 — is another company that claims to create clean fuel out of air, as two groundbreaking technologies are used to create the final fuel product: the first captures and removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and claims to have been doing so since 2015; and the second technology is claimed to have synthesized the aforementioned carbon dioxide into clean and affordable transportation fuels by combining it with hydrogen extracted from water since 2017.

Final Boarding Call

“How much do you want to bet that if the direct air capture technology of Carbon Engineering successfully results in manufacturing less expensive jet fuel which will save airlines millions of dollars, not only will little to none of the savings be passed on to customers — but some airlines may even continue to keep their exorbitant fuel surcharges carrier-imposed fees?” is what I wrote in this article pertaining to cheap gasoline which is manufactured from carbon found in air potentially becoming the fuel of the future back on Monday, April 22, 2019.

Notice that nowhere in the announcement is any intent of United Airlines to pass on any potential financial savings on the nascent technology.

Regardless, direct air capture technology sounds too good to be true; but I hope that it is indeed true. To take a plentiful resource such as carbon dioxide out of the air and convert it to cheap gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel while simultaneously helping towards protecting and improving the environment would go a long way towards cleaning up our air while satisfying our voracious need for energy for the foreseeable future.

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!