United Airlines has invested $5 million in Viridos, a technology company that specializes in turning algae into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Bioengineering is used by Viridos to produce algae oil, which can be used to create jet fuel & decarbonize various industries. It is expected that the use of algae-based SAF will significantly reduce an airline’s carbon footprint compared to traditional jet fuels, & United Airlines (UA) hopes to achieve its ambitious goal of being a 100% green company by 2050. The UA has started a venture fund to identify & invest in technology that will help it achieve that goal. The first investment made by the fund is in Viridos.
Viridos identifies itself as a leader in bioengineering microalgae, & its algae have already achieved seven times the oil productivity compared to wild algae. Compared to traditional jet fuel,SAF,created by Viridos’ algae oil, is expected to have a 70% reduced carbon footprint on a lifecycle basis. An abundant resource is found in algae, as it can be grown & harvested without impacting the food supply chain, making it an ideal source of feedstock for SAF.
Conventional jet fuel must be blended with SAF to meet regulatory requirements for use in aircraft, & the US military plans to use jet fuel with at least 10% SAF by 2028. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act of the Biden administration includes a tax credit specifically for SAF, which UA believes will encourage the production of improved SAF infrastructure & reduce the price of the fuel source.
Other efforts by UA to reduce emissions include purchasing four-person electric aircraft & launching a new partnership to develop sustainable fuels using ethanol. At present, SAF is made from used cooking oil,or agricultural waste, but scientists hope it can eventually be made from such things as household trash,forest waste, or algae. UA’s recent investment in Viridos is another step toward lowering carbon emissions in the aviation industry & creating a foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water & arable land.