May 21, 2024

Southwest Airlines invests in sustainable aviation fuel

From cornfield to airplane

A chart shows how sustainable aviation fuel is created.

INDIANAPOLIS — Boilermaker Anthony Gregory recently attended the High Performance Low Carbon Liquid Fuels Summit.

Gregory, who works as renewable ventures chief operating officer at Southwest Airlines, discussed sustainable aviation fuel.

Southwest defines sustainable aviation fuel as “fuel produced from non-fossil fuel sources that can result in lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional jet fuel on a lifecycle basis.”

“Southwest is pursuing 300 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel by 2030,” Gregory said. “We feel so strongly about biofuels, we made two public investments into an ethanol-to-jet fuel space.”

“One investment Southwest made was in LanzaJet. LanzaJet is an alcohol-to-jet company that takes an alcohol ethanol feedstock and converts that to jet fuel that can be blended and used in commercial aviation.”

Southwest also invested in SAFFiRE Renewables.

“SAFFiRE is a second-generation cellulose ethanol company that uses technology developed by the National Renewable Energy Lab,” Gregory said. “That ethanol results in a really low carbon intensity score because it uses agriculture residues, in this case corn stover.

“We’re bullish on the opportunity for SAFFiRE to produce the ethanol and LanzaJet to convert that ethanol to jet fuel. We will need involvement and participation from the existing grower and ethanol community to produce meaningful volumes.”

Ethanol from agricultural byproducts such as corn stover is attractive to companies like Southwest because it is an abundant feedstock produced as a byproduct of corn.

They also appreciate it’s low-carbon intensity. Sustainable aviation fuel allows companies to take advantage of incentives at state and federal levels.

“For the ethanol industry, for Indiana, for the Midwest as a whole, there’s just a significant amount of existing fuels infrastructure,” Gregory said. “It lowers operating costs when you can leverage infrastructure that’s already in place.

“Southwest is eager to support policies and programs that support growers. We know that in the farming community, it’s critical to have policies and incentives to allow them to grow this feedstock.”

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor