Alternative jet fuels: Case study of commercial-scale deployment

Published: 2017.10.24

Anastasia Kharina, Nikita Pavlenko

Several airlines around the globe have conducted or participated in pilot projects to demonstrate the feasibility of using alternative jet fuel (AJF) on regular flights. However, most of these projects did not develop further into long-term uptake agreements.

An AJF uptake agreement between United Airlines and AltAir Fuels, now in its second year, is unique in many ways. The AJF is produced in AltAir’s facility, the first commercial-scale AJF refinery in the United States. AJF is blended with conventional fuel in United Airlines’ day-to-day operations at Los Angeles International Airport. United Airlines and AltAir’s endeavor was facilitated by several factors that may or may not available to others. However small, the cost disparity between AJF and conventional fuel is still a hurdle that market forces alone are unlikely to overcome. Without strong government incentive policies, AJF uptake will not happen as a matter of course.

An understanding of how United Airlines and AltAir overcame the substantial challenges facing AJF users may help inform efforts made to support AJF use.