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Sustainable jet fuel company Alder Fuels seals investments from United, Honeywell – TechCrunch


The aviation industry is notoriously difficult to decarbonize, in part because planes use petroleum-based fuel to fly.

Alder Fuels wants to change that. The new clean tech company, led by Bryan Sherbacow, is developing a low-carbon jet fuel that can be used as a 100% replacement for petroleum fuel, without the need to adapt existing planes or engines. This is remarkable because the only commercially available sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) still requires a 50-50 blend with conventional fuel.

The technology has piqued the interest of the aviation industry. Alder Fuels said Thursday he signed a multi-million dollar investment from aviation giants United and Honeywell – as well as an agreement to buy United for 1.5 billion gallons of fuel, the largest known deal for SAF in the history of aviation.

United uses about 4 billion gallons of fuel a year, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch, so the purchase agreement would account for nearly 40% of the airline’s overall annual fuel consumption.

Before fuel begins to flow into United aircraft, it must meet specifications set by ASTM International, an international organization that sets standards for a wide range of materials and products. From there, Alder and Honeywell plan to bring the technology to market by 2025.

Alder Fuels officially launched earlier this year, but Sherbacow has been evaluating the technology for about five years, he said in a recent interview with TechCrunch. It became clear through his previous work that the technology behind low-carbon fuel – and in particular feedstocks – needed to be scalable and widely available.

“What we are all looking for is […] How do you access these precursors of carbonaceous oil and convert them efficiently into something that works within the existing refining infrastructure? Sherbacow said.

To solve this problem, he turned to carbon-rich woody biomass, like agricultural waste, which is turned into crude oil that can be used to make aviation fuel. The company uses pyrolysis-based technology that turns biomass into liquid and processes it so that it can be integrated into existing refineries. Alder Fuels will initially use Honeywell’s proprietary “Ecofining” hydrotreatment technology. The ultimate goal is to make the new fuel compatible with all refining assets.

“There is a significant amount of [woody biomass] it is already aggregated industrially, but has little or no economic value today, ”explained Sherbacow. “But it’s a great opportunity for us because it’s a store of carbon that we can use.” It could even open up new markets for forestry, agricultural and even paper companies, which already generate a lot of bio-waste.

Alder Fuels’ research is supported by the US Defense Logistics Agency and the Department of Energy, and Sherbacow stressed the importance of public-private partnerships to decarbonize the aviation industry. Climate change was of particular interest to President Joe Biden’s administration, and the incentives for sustainable aviation fuel will likely find their way into the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill currently being debated by Congress.

“It’s one of the roles of government, it’s to help with the transition,” he said. “You have to inspire incumbents to change their behavior, or they will resist disruptive change. “


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