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15 airlines and carriers sign preliminary deals to use synthetic fuels

December 15, 2009 | 11:36 am

Trying to wean the air industry off of petroleum jet fuel, 15 airlines and carriers signed preliminary deals to use synthetic fuels instead, the trade group Air Transport Assn. of America said today.

Air Canada, American Airlines Corp., Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Delta Air Lines Inc., FedEx Corp.’s Fedex Express, Jetblue Airways Corp., Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Mexicana Airlines, Polar Air Cargo, UAL Corp., UPS Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. all signed memorandums of understanding with Seattle-based AltAir Fuels and Los Angeles-based Rentech Inc.

Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are in talks separately with AltAir, while AirTran Airways is working with RenTech.

The RenTech deals would use fuel from a facility proposed for a 450-acre plot in Adams County, Miss. Known as the Natchez Project, the site could produce 250 million gallons of alternative jet fuels per year from coal or petroleum coke, all of which may eventually go to the airlines.

The carbon dioxide produced from the process would be sequestered, according to the company. The resultant fuel which would produce lower emissions than the fuels currently used in most airplanes.

Constructing the facility could create more than 2,100 direct jobs and more than 3,400 indirect jobs, RenTech said. Once in operation, Natchez could account for 400 direct jobs and more than 3,200 indirect jobs, according to a recent study by Alcorn State University.

The AltAir deals would draw from 75 million gallons a year of jet and diesel fuel made from camelina oils and other feedstocks at a plant planned at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash.

-- Tiffany Hsu