Sourcing Renewables - June 6, 2022
Southwest Airlines Invests in SAF company
Southwest Airlines Co. announced an investment into SAFFiRE Renewables, LLC , a company formed by D3MAX, LLC , as part of a Department of Energy (DOE)-backed project to develop and produce scalable, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
SAFFiRE is funded with a DOE grant matched by Southwest's investment and is expected to utilize technology developed by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to convert corn stover, a widely available waste feedstock in the U.S., into renewable ethanol that then would be upgraded into SAF.
In 2021, the DOE awarded D3MAX the only pilot-scale grant for SAF production, with a goal to scale technology that could commercialize SAF. According to NREL, this could produce significant quantities of cost-competitive SAF that could provide an 84% reduction in carbon intensity compared to conventional jet fuel on a lifecycle basis. Southwest's match of the DOE's grant supports phase one of the project, which is expected to include technology validation, preliminary design, and a business plan for a pilot plant.
This project supports the federal government's climate strategy, including an ambition for three billion gallons of SAF by 2030 through the SAF Grand Challenge.
"SAF is critical for decarbonizing the aviation sector," said Bob Jordan, CEO at Southwest, said in a statement. "This is a unique opportunity to invest in what we believe could be game-changing technology that could facilitate the replacement of up to approximately five percent of our jet fuel with SAF by 2030 with the potential to significantly continue to scale beyond the decade. This first-of-its-kind investment is another step we are taking to address our environmental impact, and it also supports our efforts to partner with organizations and government entities to help our industry reach the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050."
In 2021, Southwest set a near-term goal to maintain carbon neutrality to 2019 levels while continuing to grow its operations, part of which includes replacing 10% of its total jet fuel consumption with SAF by 2030.