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Delta Air Lines invests US$2 million in biorefinery feasibility study

In the United States (US), Delta Air Lines Inc. (Delta), has announced that it is investing US$2 million to partner with Northwest Advanced Bio-fuels, LLC for the feasibility study of a biorefinery in Washington State to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and other biofuel products from forest biomass.

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Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 (photo courtesy Delta).
A Delta Air Lines Airbus A330. Delta announced September 17, 2019, that it is investing US$2 million to partner with Northwest Advanced Bio-fuels, LLC for the feasibility study of a biorefinery in Washington State to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and other biofuel products from forest biomass (photo courtesy Delta).

The sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), expected to be produced in a facility in Washington State, could be used in Delta operations at stations in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

The Northwest Advanced Bio-fuels (NWABF) project would utilize wood residue deposits and wood slash lying on forest floors to produce the biofuel, which would qualify under an approved carbon-reducing pathway recognized by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM).

While Delta continues to take actions toward our long-term goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent 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 Alison Lathrop, Delta’s Managing Director — Global Environment, Sustainability and Compliance.

Delta expects the feasibility study to be completed by the middle of 2020. At that time, Delta will evaluate the next steps in moving forward with the project’s development.

This single project could provide approximately 10 percent of Delta’s annual jet fuel consumption in the West Coast region and, if successful, could become the blueprint for future projects to support Delta’s goal to further reduce its carbon footprint. This project has additional environmental benefits because it reduces wood residuals in forests, which can increase potential fire hazards and inhibit future tree growth, said Graeme Burnett, Delta’s Senior Vice President — Fuel Management.

Gasification and Fischer-Tropsch

Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, LLC, a Delaware-based company and a wholly-owned subsidiary of US Advanced Bio-Fuels, Inc. (USABIO) is in the process of developing second-generation, commercial-scale, cellulosic renewable biojet fuel refineries with the first project being developed in the Pacific Northwest.

We are excited to partner with Delta Air Lines in lowering the airline’s carbon footprint and supporting Delta’s sustainability strategy. This project combines proven technologies to produce exceptional quality sustainable aviation fuel on a large scale from renewable feedstock resources, said Dave Smoot, Head of Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, LLC.

NWABF has assembled a “world-class team” of industry-leading front-end gasification and back-end Fischer-Tropsch technology companies for this project. NWABF is also deploying experienced world-class engineering and construction companies to design, construct and operate the first-of-its-kind facility in the State of Washington.NWABF plans first delivery of the fuel by the end of 2023.

Our research demonstrates that using forest harvest residuals to produce sustainable aviation fuels, not only reduces emissions from the aviation sector but also provides for much-needed jobs in the rural and timber-dependent regions of the Pacific Northwest, said Michael Wolcott, co-director of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and Professor at Washington State University (WSU).

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