Southwest, U.S. BioEnergy Reach Fuel Deal

Southwest Airlines airplane | Image by Jeramey Lende

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced on Thursday that it has agreed to purchase sustainable aviation fuel from renewable fuels company USA BioEnergy over a 20-year period.

The agreement allows Southwest to acquire up to 680 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF. When blended with conventional jet fuel, SAF could produce the equivalent of 2.59 billion gallons of net-zero fuel and avoid 30 million metric tons of carbon monoxide, the airline stated in a news release.

“This offtake agreement with USA BioEnergy marks important progress in the development of our SAF portfolio and furthers our goal to replace 10 percent of our total jet fuel consumption with SAF by 2030,” Michael AuBuchon, managing director of Fuel Strategy and Management at Southwest, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to the opportunity to grow our strategic relationship with USA BioEnergy and potentially purchase more SAF from them in the future.”

Southwest plans to begin purchasing SAF from USA BioEnergy’s facility near Bon Wier, Texas, the carrier said, as early as 2028.

Bon Wier is located along U.S. 190, about two-and-a-half hours northeast of Houston near the Louisiana state line.

Southwest, as part of the agreement, may also purchase up to an additional 180 million gallons of SAF each year from planned production facilities.

“Our agreement with Southwest Airlines is a perfect fit because it aligns Southwest’s goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and USA BioEnergy’s goal of becoming the leading producer of carbon-negative fuel,” David Prom, chairman of the board and co-founder of USA BioEnergy, said.

Decarbonization and the achievement of net-zero goals among airlines has been an emphasis among the larger carriers in the U.S. The aviation industry has already made strides in improving fuel efficiency by 39% between 2005 and 2019, according to a report from McKinsey & Co., though emissions growth still outpaces the efficiencies recognized.

Southwest follows other carriers, such as Fort Worth-based American Airlines Group Inc. and Delta Air Lines, in releasing plans to incorporate SAF in the future.

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