Southwest Airlines has signed an agreement with Red Rock Biofuels (RRB) to purchase approximately three million gallons of low carbon renewable jet fuel per year.
The biofuels are made using forest residues that will help reduce the risk of destructive wildfires in the Western United States. RRB’s first plant will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass feedstock into at least 12 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels.
The blended product will be used in Southwest’s San Francisco Bay Area operations with first delivery expected in 2016.
Southwest is a long-time member of Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), a government and industry coalition for the development and deployment of alternative jet fuel for commercial aviation. As a member of CAAFI, the airline has followed the progress of alternative fuel technologies. RRB is the first viable opportunity the airline has found to meet its financial and sustainability objectives.
Biofuels are slowly but surely beginning to take off in the airline industry. In July, Brazilian airline GOL became the first in the aviation industry to fly a commercial flight with farnesane, a recently approved aviation biofuel. The airline partnered with Amyris, a biotechnology company dedicated to producing renewable alternatives to petroleum-based fuels, to take the first step in developing a more sustainable aviation industry.
Besides biofuels, Southwest is also engaged in upcycling. In July, the company announced the launch of LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose, a global sustainability initiative to upcycle 43 acres of used leather seat coverings into new products that will benefit communities by providing employment, skills training and donated products. LUV Seat was developed following the Company's Evolve program — a large-scale redesign of all of its 737-700 aircraft and a portion of its 737-300 fleet, and is now standard on all new planes — which replaced the leather seat covers and other interior elements with environmentally friendly materials. Through this redesign, Southwest reduced the weight of each aircraft by more than 600 pounds.