Boeing will offer biofuel for jet deliveries, and Alaska Airlines says ‘Fill ‘er up’

Biofuel-powered jet
Alaska Airlines says it will take a biofuel fill-up from Boeing when its 737 MAX jets are delivered. (Alaska Airlines Photo)

Boeing says it will begin offering airlines and operators the chance to have their jets powered by biofuel when they take off for their new homes, and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is the first to sign up for the option.

The program was unveiled today, in the wake of this week’s first-ever Washington Sustainable Aviation Fuels Summit in Seattle. Boeing and Alaska Airlines were among the event’s sponsors.

Like the summit, Boeing’s new option is aimed at advancing the use of aviation biofuels, which studies have shown can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent on a typical flight.

“This is another step in our decade-long journey to encourage the adoption of sustainable fuels and help commercial aviation earn its license to keep growing,” Sheila Remes, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ vice president of strategy, said in a news release. “We have great customers such as Alaska Airlines that have made good progress in adopting the use of biofuels. We hope this new option will make it easier for them and others to demonstrate our industry’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.”

The biofuel option will be available for customers accepting new airplanes at Boeing’s delivery centers in Seattle and Everett, Wash. Boeing says it also plans to use biofuels for some of its flight tests at Seattle’s Boeing Field, and is working to offer the option at its South Carolina Delivery Center as well.

Alaska Airlines says it will use a blend of biofuel and traditional fuel when it takes delivery of three Boeing 737 MAX airplanes this year. Boeing and Alaska have previously worked together to experiment with biofuel blends on airline flights, but now the arrangement is going beyond the experimental stage.

“We congratulate our partners at Boeing for operationalizing a drop-in sustainable aviation jet fuel option,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of external relations. “We’re excited to not only take advantage of the first biofuel delivery, but to continue working together to advance and scale mainstream adoption of sustainable fuel and other practices to enhance the aviation industry’s ability to do good.”

Read more: Port of Seattle pushes for sustainable aviation fuels, but it’s not easy being green

The biofuel will be produced from agricultural waste at World Energy’s refinery in Paramount, Calif., and blended with traditional jet fuel for commercial use. Texas-based EPIC Fuels, which supported Boeing’s evaluation of biofuels in its ecoDemonstrator flight test program, will ship the biofuel blend to Boeing’s delivery centers.

Boeing has worked with partners around the globe to boost the use of sustainable aviation fuel. It supported the first commercial aviation test flight to use biofuel, flown by Virgin Atlantic in 2008, and helped get biofuel approved for regular commercial use in 2011.

The potential feedstocks for biofuels include forestry and agricultural waste, Brazilian sugar cane, used cooking oil and a variety of plants. One project in which Boeing was involved produced a biofuel blend in the United Arab Emirates using seawater-tolerant salicornia plants.

The Port of Seattle has set a goal of using biofuel for 10 percent of the jet fuel on airplanes at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport by 2028. That could translate into a plan to fuel every plane taking off from Sea-Tac with a 10 percent biofuel blend.