From the Sea to the Sky: United Invests $5 Million in Algae-Based Fuel Producer Viridos
Viridos' technology extracts algae oil from algae for potential future production of sustainable aviation fuel
United has invested in more future SAF production than any other airline1
Viridos investment is first by airline's new UAV Sustainable Flight Fund since its launch
CHICAGO, April 12, 2023 /3BL Media/ - United wants to turn microalgae into SAF through the first new investment of its recently announced UAV Sustainable Flight FundSM since its launch: algae biofuel company Viridos. This $5 million investment will support the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from algae, an abundant and scalable resource that can be grown and harvested without impacting the food supply chain.
Viridos specializes in the bioengineering of microalgae and its proprietary technology accelerates the amount of oil that can produced from microalgae. This algae oil could then be used to scale the future production of SAF.
SAF is an alternative to conventional jet fuel that, on a lifecycle basis, reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with air travel compared to conventional jet fuel alone.¹ SAF is made from used cooking oil and agricultural waste, and, in the future, could be made from other feedstocks, including household trash, forest waste, or algae. To date, United has invested in the future production of over three billion gallons of SAF - the most of any airline in the world.²
"SAF is proven, scalable, and the best tool we have to reduce our carbon emissions from flying, but we face a significant shortage of available feedstock," said United Airlines Ventures President Mike Leskinen. "As the global aviation leader in SAF production investment United remains committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions, without relying on traditional carbon offsets, by 2050. Viridos' algae-based biofuel technology has the potential to help solve our supply problem without the need for farmland or other agricultural resources and marks our inaugural investment in our new cross-industry UAV Sustainable Flight Fund."
Viridos, a biofuel company focused on decarbonizing industries, is leading the bioengineering of microalgae and has already achieved seven times the oil productivity compared to typical wild-type algae. This creates an opportunity for potentially scalable and more sustainable production of algae oil, that could later be used to produce SAF. Based on current estimates, SAF created by Viridos' algae oil is expected to have a 70% reduced carbon footprint on a lifecycle basis when compared to traditional jet fuel.
Viridos' bioengineering technology combines several important and unique attributes contributing to better scalability and sustainability compared with traditional jet fuel production:
- Surface area oil productivities of Viridos algae far exceed any traditional oil crop, achieving high algae oil output on comparatively small areas.
- Viridos algae are grown in vessels containing seawater. This allows contained deployment in hot and dry locations without taxing scarce freshwater and arable land resources, while eliminating runoff.
- Viridos algae have extremely high oil contents facilitating downstream processing to algae oil.
- Viridos algae oil is a quality plant oil allowing existing bio-refineries to process the oil with high yield.
"By establishing production sites to grow Viridos-engineered microalgae in saltwater, we are creating the foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water and arable land. We are excited to have the support from United Airlines. Together we can build the ecosystem needed to bring algae biofuels to the market," said Oliver Fetzer, Viridos Chief Executive Officer.
About the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund
The UAV Sustainable Flight Fund is a first-of-its-kind investment vehicle that is designed to leverage support from cross-industry businesses in order to support start-ups focused on decarbonizing air travel through SAF research, technology and production. The fund is starting with more than $100 million in investments from United and inaugural corporate partners Air Canada, Boeing, GE Aerospace, JPMorgan Chase and Honeywell. To date, nearly 6,000 United customers have contributed to supplement United's investment in the fund while purchasing tickets.
The Federal Government Recognizes the Value of SAF
The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act includes the largest governmental climate change investments in U.S. history - a new blender's tax credit specifically for SAF along with other critical incentives for clean energy and carbon capture – that will help spur an increase in SAF infrastructure and supply while lowering costs for SAF consumers.
The U.S. military currently uses nearly five billion gallons of jet fuel annually and the Department of Defense will use a jet fuel blend containing at least 10% SAF by 2028 because of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the country's vast feedstock resources are enough to meet the projected SAF demand of the entire U.S. aviation industry.
United's Commitment to Net Zero Emissions by 2050
United aims to be 100% green by reducing its GHG emissions 100% by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets. In addition to the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, United has launched a SAF purchasing program called the Eco-Skies Alliance and established a venture fund - United Airlines Ventures - to identify and invest in companies and technologies that can decarbonize air travel. These strategic investments include carbon capture, hydrogen-electric engines, electric regional aircraft and air taxis.
United's shared purpose is "Connecting People. Uniting the World." From our U.S. hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., United operates the most comprehensive global route network among North American carriers. United is bringing back our customers' favorite destinations and adding new ones on its way to becoming the world's best airline. For more about how to join the United team, please visit www.united.com/careers and more information about the company is at www.united.com. United Airlines Holdings, Inc., the parent company of United Airlines, Inc., is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL". For further information about our environmental impact, review United's Corporate Responsibility Report and Annual Report on Form 10-K, available at crreport.united.com and ir.united.com.
United Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements and Other Important Information
This press release contains certain "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 relating to, among other things, plans and projections regarding the company's business strategy as well as its ESG goals, targets, commitments, strategies and initiatives and related business and stakeholder impacts. All statements that are not statements of historical facts are, or may be deemed to be, forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are based on historical performance and current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections about our future financial results, plans, objectives, goals, targets, commitments, strategies and initiatives and involve inherent risks, assumptions and uncertainties, known or unknown, including internal or external factors that could delay, divert or change any of them, that are difficult to predict, may be beyond our control and could cause our future financial results, plans, objectives, goals, targets, commitments, strategies and initiatives to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, the statements. These risks, assumptions, uncertainties and other factors include, among others, any failure to meet stated ESG goals, targets, commitments, strategies and initiatives in the time frame expected or at all as a result of many factors, including changing societal, market, competitive, regulatory or stakeholder expectations; any delay or inability of United Airlines to realize the expected benefits of the investment, including from a delay or failure of any project to be fully developed or become operational or to produce sustainable aviation fuel or other ESG-related product in the amounts contemplated or at all. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed. Forward-looking statements in this press release should be evaluated together with the many risks and uncertainties that affect United's business and market, particularly those identified in the "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and "Risk Factors" sections in United's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2022, as updated by our subsequent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Risks and uncertainties related to United's environmental compliance, climate commitments and climate strategy are further described in Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors of United's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022—"We are subject to many forms of environmental regulation and liability and risks associated with climate change and may incur substantial costs as a result. In addition, failure to achieve or demonstrate progress towards our climate goals may expose us to liability and reputational harm."
The statements included in this press release are made only as of the date of this press release and except as otherwise required by applicable law or regulation, United Airlines undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, changed circumstances or otherwise. In particular, United Airlines reserves the right to change, amend, supplement or abandon some or all of the statements regarding goals, targets, commitments, strategies, initiatives, intentions and other statements from time to time without notice.
In addition, some of our disclosures in this press release are estimates or based on assumptions due to inherent measurement uncertainties. For example, United's statement that it has already invested in the future production of more than three billion gallons of SAF—the most of any airline in the world—is based on publicly announced future purchase agreements for SAF of certain airlines as of the date hereof.
1 SAF must be blended with conventional jet fuel to meet regulatory requirements for use within the aircraft.
2 Based on publicly announced airline offtake agreements for future purchases of SAF