United invests $15M in carbon capture-sustainable fuel effort
United Airlines is investing $15 million in a carbon capture startup developing technology that may eventually be used to capture and compress CO2 for use in producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the company announced Wednesday.
- The startup, Svante, plans to use the funds to manufacture carbon capture filters in Vancouver, Canada, at commercial scale.
How it works: Svante's filters are designed to capture CO2 from industrial sites or the atmosphere. It would then be compressed for potential use in SAFs, or sequestered underground.
Catch up quick: It's the latest investment from United's Sustainable Flight Fund, a multimillion-dollar, cross-industry effort to support SAF startups and R&D.
What they're saying: "Instead of just buying SAF, we're taking the money to invest in companies that are building the industry," United CEO Scott Kirby told Joann Muller at Wednesday's What's Next Summit.
- "We're giving them the startup capital to go develop the technology and to do the R&D and see what works and what can scale to commercial size and grow the industry."
The big picture: Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are under tremendous pressure to decarbonize.
- United, for example, aims to go emissions-free by 2050 — without using carbon offsets.
- SAFs, currently made from used cooking oil and industrial waste, are seen as a short- to medium-term way to reduce aviation emissions.
Yes, but: SAF production needs to increase notably and quickly in order to have anything more than a negligible impact.
What's next: Efforts to power aircraft with electric power or hydrogen are underway — but still in their early days and facing significant headwinds.
- Today's battery technology can't support long-haul flying, Kirby said, while hydrogen requires much more volume to provide the same amount of energy as today's jet fuel — hence the company's focus on SAFs.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that United is investing $15 million in Svante, not $5 million as the company first announced.