United Airlines is about to become the first US airline to invest in a biofuel refinery. The carrier could invest as much as $37.5 million into NEXT, a Houston-based company that is developing its flagship refinery in Oregon.
Thanks in part to the United Airlines’ investment, NEXT’s Oregon refinery will be equipped to provide sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) throughout the West Coast. Once fully operational in 2026, it will be capable of producing up to 50,000 barrels of sustainable aviation fuel and other renewable fuels per day.
United Airlines Ventures
United Airlines’ investment of up to $37.5 million is being made through United Airlines Ventures, which was launched in 2021. United Airlines Ventures invests in startup companies and upcoming technologies and ideas. This is to support the airline’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In addition to the investment in NEXT’s biofuel refinery, current projects include electric regional aircraft and air taxis.
President of United Airlines Ventures, Michael Leskinen, highlighted the importance of the investment for the airline’s sustainability ambitions, as well as for the industry as a whole, saying,
“Right now, one of the biggest barriers to increasing supply and lowering costs of sustainable fuel is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to transport it efficiently, but NEXT’s strategic location and assets solve that problem and provide a blueprint for future facilities that need to be built. We believe this investment will not only bolster NEXT’s ambitions and create near-term solutions to expand our SAF supply, but further demonstrates our commitment toward producing SAF at the scale necessary to decarbonize the aviation industry.”
NEXT’s flagship biofuel refinery, is strategically located in Port Westward, Oregon, close to two of United Airlines’ major hubs – San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Its location also provides easy access to a deep-water port and existing industrial-grade dock, facilitating access to worldwide supply chains.
CEO and chairperson of NEXT, Christopher Efird, also celebrated the investment, saying,
“The clean fuels industry is taking off and our access to feedstocks, multi-modal distribution, and major industry players positions us to be a leading SAF supplier on the West Coast. United’s investment in NEXT strengthens our resolve to be one of the clean fuels leaders in the transportation sector.”
An impressive sustainability track record
United Airlines has been among those leading the way when it comes to advocating alternative fuels in the aviation industry. In recent years, the airline has invested more in SAF production than any other carrier worldwide. In 2021, it also operated the world’s first passenger flight using 100% SAF in one engine.
Sustainability within the airline industry is never far from the spotlight, and following United Airlines’ lead, we will likely see more carriers around the world investing in sustainable projects.
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United AirlinesIATA/ICAO Code: UA/UALAirline Type: Full Service CarrierHub(s): Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Guam International Airport, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Washington Dulles International AirportYear Founded: 1931Alliance: Star AllianceCEO: Scott KirbyCountry: United States