United Airlines has entered into a purchase agreement with Neste that provides the right to buy up to 52.5 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over the next three years for United flights departing from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and potentially other airports as well. The deal makes it Neste’s largest to date with a passenger airline and also the first by a US airline to sign an international SAF purchase agreement. United’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Lauren Riley, said the airline had invested more than any other airline so far in SAF production and that it made sense to expand its network of partners internationally. Neste will provide United with 2.5 million gallons of SAF at Schiphol in the first year, with the airline having the right to purchase up to 20 million gallons in the second year and up to 30 million gallons in the third. The Finnish renewable fuels producer has also announced a partnership with Coldplay to supply SAF for air transport on the band’s North American and European legs of its forthcoming world tour.
Commenting on United Airlines’ agreement with Neste, Riley said: “Reducing carbon emissions from fuel is the fastest way United will reach our 100% green goal by 2050. The demand from our customers to limit their emissions from flying is growing exponentially and this agreement means that United customers flying from Amsterdam, and potentially other airports, will be partners in our sustainability efforts.”
The purchased SAF will be used on every flight out of Schiphol and the amount represents up to ten times United’s current SAF usage.
Neste has been producing SAF since 2011 and has supplied its MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel to customers in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Its growth strategy foresees the company producing 515 million gallons (1.5 million tonnes) per year by the end of 2023.
“Our global, fast-growing SAF production and supply chain supports airlines and their customers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We’re excited to be partnering with United in this milestone purchase agreement and make our SAF available to United, also an industry leader in SAF investments,” said Thorsten Lange, EVP Renewable Aviation at Neste.
The company said that while such agreements are critical for airlines to lower their carbon footprints, to truly meet their climate goals the industry, regulators and even consumers “must think bigger”.
“In order to accelerate the transition to cleaner fuels at the speed required, Congress must unlock sustainable solutions like SAF, now,” a spokesperson for Neste North America told GreenAir. “Without robust government investment, such as a long-term, SAF-specific blenders tax credit, it is unlikely to become a viable solution for air travel in the near term. Through policy reform and industry incentives, we can develop the nascent market, thereby reducing emissions and avoiding the worst effects of climate change.”
The US Administration is championing legislation on a 10-year, performance-based blenders tax credit, coupled with other policy measures and incentives, such as grants, to finance new SAF investments, as part of its SAF Grand Challenge goal of 3 billion gallons by 2030.
“Neste was encouraged by this advancement, but to make large-scale SAF production a reality and inspire more agreements between SAF providers and airlines, meaningful legislation must be enacted at national and state levels,” said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Neste’s collaboration with Coldplay is expected to bring a 50% reduction in the band’s Music of the Spheres world tour related carbon emissions compared to its previous world tour. To achieve its ambitions for more sustainable touring, Coldplay explored lower-emission alternatives to power aircraft, power generators and road vehicles, reports Neste, and decided on the use of SAF and renewable diesel.
“We’ve tried to put sustainability at the centre of this tour because it just feels like the only option,” said Chris Martin of Coldplay, which had previously paused touring until it could be done in a more sustainable way.
As well as using Neste’s SAF on flights, its MY Renewable Diesel product will be used for the trucks transporting the band’s equipment from one location to another and also in stationary power generators.
“The world needs these kinds of changemakers to lead the way towards a more sustainable future,” said Minna Aila, SVP Sustainability and Corporate Affairs at Neste. “Coldplay is one of the world’s most popular touring bands and their ambition to make their world tour as sustainable as possible is extremely inspiring.”
Editor’s note: GreenAir is a media partner to SimpliFlying’s new podcast series ‘Sustainability in the Air’, which features weekly interviews with industry leaders. In the May 5 episode, SimpliFlying CEO Shashank Nigam and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby discuss the airline’s sustainability strategy and investments. To find out more and listen to the episode, click here