Delta Air Lines has invested $2 million in a study to assess the viability of a new biofuel plant in Washington State, which could be pumping out “sustainable” aviation fuels in less than five years.
The carrier, the largest single stakeholder in Virgin Atlantic, has partnered with Northwest Advanced Bio-fuels for the project, which proposes turning organic deposits on forest floors into a viable fuel.
Delta becomes the latest carrier to pursue biofuel production following moves by Virgin, which has partnered with LanzaTech, and British Airways, which is working with Velocys and Shell on plans for a plant near the Humber Estuary.
According to Delta, sustainable aviation fuels produced at a facility in Washington could power its operations in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Northwest’s proposal involves turning wood deposits on forest floors into fuel. The study is expected to be completed by mid-2020, with Northwest hopeful of delivering its first batch by the end of 2023.
Alison Lathrop, Delta managing director global environment, sustainability and compliance, said the carrier’s long-term goal was to cut its carbon output in half by 2050.
“Fuel is a key area where we are examining opportunities to create real sustainability differences and drive accountability across the entire business as we lower our environmental impact," said Lathrop.
Graeme Burnett, Delta senior vice-president fuel management, added the project could supply around 10% of its annual jet fuel supply in its West Coast region, and could be the “blueprint” for future efforts to reduce the carrier’s carbon footprint.