Ground-breaking United Airlines is first U.S. carrier to invest in SAF biofuel refinery

©United Airlines

United Airlines has announced that it is to invest up to US$37.5 million (£32 million) in a biofuel refinery which will be capable of producing up to 50,000 barrels of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), renewable diesel and other renewable fuels per day. Currently, the NEXT Renewable Fuels (NEXT) refinery, located in Port Westward, Oregon is undergoing permitting and expects to become operational by the beginning of 2026.

NEXT is a next-generation fuels company which is currently dedicated to sustainably producing clean, low-carbon fuels and the Port Westward refinery is its first commercial project with the chosen location aiming to serve the West Coast market. NEXT’s biorefinery offers several unique benefits including access to a deep-water port, an existing industrial-grade dock and multi-modal logistics options, which facilitates access to feedstock options and fast-growth SAF offtake markets on the west coast.

The American Airlines’ investment comes under the umbrella of the group’s offshoot company United Airlines Ventures (UAV) and the Port Westward project is its fifth SAF-related technology investment and its first direct investment in a bio refinery.

Launched in 2021, UAV is a first-of-its-kind sustainability-focused ventures fund that targets startups, upcoming technologies, and concepts that will complement United’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 – without relying on traditional carbon offsets such as voluntary offsets or planting trees. Currently, UAV’s portfolio includes SAF producers and other companies advancing technologies including carbon utilization, hydrogen-electric engines, electric regional aircraft and air taxis.

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