United Airlines on Friday began using biofuel – “feedstock” from agricultural waste – to help power flights running between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with plans to expand use of the renewable jet fuel to all flights operating out of LAX.

Photo by John Schreiber.

The launch marks the first time an American airline has used biofuel for regular operations.

“Los Angeles is a global leader in sustainability, so it’s no wonder that the first U.S. flights to use commercial-scale, renewable jet fuel are taking off from our airport,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“LAX and United Airlines have broken new ground with fuel that reduces carbon emissions by as much as 60 percent when compared to standard jet fuel,” the mayor said. “Today, we set a new standard for sustainability in aviation — an example I hope the rest of the industry will follow in the coming years.”

United has agreed to purchase up to 15 million gallons of the sustainable biofuel over a three-year period from Paramount-based AltAir Fuels, a refiner of jet fuel from renewable and sustainable oils.

“Investing in biofuels represents a significant next step in operating a more sustainable airport,” said Sean Burton, president of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners. “It also represents an investment in creating clean-energy jobs in Southern California.”

AltAir’s biofuels meet the same stringent international fuel certification as conventional jet fuel and the Federal Aviation Administration has approved its use.

It is considered a “drop in” fuel, so no infrastructure or aircraft engine modifications are needed. The biofuel is refined from feedstock, such as agricultural wastes and/or non-edible natural oils, into low-carbon advanced biofuels.

Current biofuels are less dense than traditional fossil fuels and must be blended to meet current aviation fuel standards. The AltAir fuel is blended at 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent traditional fuel.

— City News Service

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