8 August 2022

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Alaska Airlines teams with Microsoft to aid development of Twelve’s E-Jet power-to-liquid fuel

Alaska Airlines is partnering with Microsoft Corporation and carbon technology company Twelve to progress the development of power-to-liquid (PtL) fuels, through which carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere is converted with renewable energy to create sustainable aviation fuel. The three companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will lead to the first commercial demonstration flight in the US using Twelve’s E-Jet low carbon fuel, followed by Alaska’s use of the fuel to part-power some of Microsoft’s business travel on the airline to help recompense its emissions. Alaska Airlines has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2040, 10 years ahead of the airline industry’s generally-agreed commitment to 2050, and has purchased and promoted SAF for more than a decade, while Microsoft is also an investor in Twelve through the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, reports Tony Harrington. Meanwhile, two European airlines, Aer Lingus and Aegean, have announced SAF deals.

Diana Birkett Rakow, SVP Public Affairs and Sustainability for Alaska Airlines, said the carrier’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2040 relied upon procuring SAF, including Twelve’s E-Jet product. “We are committed to making SAF more widely available, at an affordable price, helping bring new alternatives to market, and using these fuels in our operation, a path that requires public policy action and private partnerships like this one,” she said. “We’re excited to work with Twelve and Microsoft to advance Twelve’s E-Jet fuel, turning captured CO2 and renewable energy into fuel for our airplanes.”

The airline said that since 2010, it had worked with a range of public and private partners “to advance public policies needed to jumpstart the nascent SAF market, create new offtake agreements and cultivate partnerships to accelerate market development,” and was a founding member of the Aviators Group of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Buyers Alliance (SABA), which was announced at last year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Alaska Airlines has also participated in Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator programme to test 100% SAF in one engine of a Boeing 737 jet, partnered with SAF provider SkyNRG to progress development of fuel from recycled municipal waste and is a participant in two US-based SAF procurement deals by the oneworld alliance, of which it is a member. Beyond SAF, it has partnered with ZeroAvia to help develop a hybrid-electric powertrain for regional airliners.

Twelve’s E-Jet fuel is created through the use of an electrochemical reactor and a proprietary catalyst, which replicate the natural process of photosynthesis at industrial scale by electrifying CO2 and water to produce carbon neutral fuel. “By producing our drop-in E-Jet fuel from captured CO2 we can rapidly and efficiently close the carbon cycle and allow businesses to sustainably use emissions to power their own business travel,” said Nicholas Flanders, CEO and Co-founder of Twelve. “Partnering with progress-minded brands like Alaska Airlines and Microsoft adds thrust as we work towards delivering industrial-scale volumes of E-Jet.” The company said the fuel had already been tested and qualified by the US Air Force.

In March this year, the Canadian e-commerce group Shopify, which is also one of the largest corporate investors in long-term carbon removal, announced its Sustainability Fund had made the first purchase of Twelve’s E-Jet fuel. “Purchasing carbon removal from leading companies is critical to helping them scale, but purchasing from emerging companies pursuing novel approaches is equally essential,” said Stacy Kauk, Shopify’s Head of Sustainability. As well as helping to accelerate carbon removal solutions, she added, such investments also provided recipient businesses with a strong revenue stream and helped them to secure financing for their programmes.   

Elizabeth Willmott, Carbon Programme Director at Microsoft, said addressing emissions from hard-to-abate sectors such as aviation needed commitment from all stakeholders. “Building on our Climate Innovation Fund investment in Twelve and relationship with Alaska Airlines, this collaboration provides an opportunity to accelerate decarbonisation in the aviation industry by exploring how to use low carbon fuels produced by renewable electricity, like Twelve’s E-Jet.”

While Alaska Airlines expands its extensive SAF programme to include PtL, two European airlines, Aer Lingus and Aegean, have both announced new agreements to purchase SAF in line with their commitments to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Aer Lingus, a member of International Airlines Group (IAG), has just signed an agreement to purchase 19,000 tonnes per year of SAF for five years from US-based renewable fuels company Gevo, commencing in 2026. The fuel will be used by the airline to help power its flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and from 2026 will represent 50% of the fuel purchased by Aer Lingus in California.

IAG, which also includes British Airways, Iberia, Iberia Express, Vueling, Air Nostrum and LEVEL, has already committed to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, and to powering 10% of its flights with SAF by 2030. Aer Lingus said its deal with Gevo would provide enough SAF to cut lifecycle CO2 emissions by at least 180,000 tonnes, equivalent to 1,000 net zero CO2 flights with widebody Airbus A330 jets between Dublin and Los Angeles.

In Greece, Aegean has announced its first SAF deal, a partnership with Hellenic Petroleum to use a blended product to operate flights on domestic and international routes, beginning with departures from its hub at Thessaloniki Airport, to be followed soon after by services from Athens International Airport. Timing of the programmes was not revealed.

Photo: Alaska Airlines