United Airline Ventures Invests In Algae-Based Fuel Producer, Viridos

United Airline Ventures (UAV) is investing in Viridos; an algae biofuel company that is aiming to turn microalgae into sustainable aviation fuel (SAV). 

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United Airline Ventures (UAV) just announced the first new investment they will be making since the launch of their Sustainable Flight FundSM. They’ve decided to invest $5 million in an algae biofuel company called Viridos.

The goal of the investment is to ideally get to a place where microalgae can be turned into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Algae is known as an abundant and scalable resource that can be grown, harvested, and utilized without impacting or disrupting the food supply chain. 

Viridos specifically specializes in the bioengineering of microalgae. The technology used by the company can accelerate the amount of oil that can be produced from microalgae, which could be used to scale for the future production of SAF, according to the online publication Breaking Travel News.

“SAF is an alternative to conventional jet fuel that, on a lifecycle basis, reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with air travel compared to conventional jet fuel alone.”

The publication discussed how SAF is typically made from used cooking oil and agricultural waste. In the future, SAF could be produced from things like household trash, forest waste, and of course, algae. United has, in total, invested in the future production of over three billion gallons of SAF, the most of any airline in the world. 

“SAF is proven, scalable, and the best tool we have to reduce our carbon emissions from flying, but we face a significant shortage of available feedstock,” said United Airlines Ventures President Mike Leskinen. 

“As the global aviation leader in SAF production investment, United remains committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions, without relying on traditional carbon offsets, by 2050,” he continued.

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“Viridos’ algae-based biofuel technology has the potential to help solve our supply problem without the need for farmland or other agricultural resources and marks our inaugural investment in our new cross-industry UAV Sustainable Flight Fund.”

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Viridos has an overall company goal of decarbonizing industries, and is a leaser in the bioengineering of microalgae. The company has already achieved seven times the oil productivity compared to typical wild algae, according to reports

Their advancements could make it easier to bring SAF mainstream. The SAF created by Viridos so far could have the impact of a 70% reduction in carbon footprints in airplanes when compared to traditional jet fuel. 

The algae used by Viridos is grown in vessels using sea water, allowing for a contained production in various environments, as well as the removal of the need to find and utilize fresh water. The high oil content in Viridos algae also shows that it can be produced in high volumes. 

“By establishing production sites to grow Viridos-engineered microalgae in saltwater, we are creating the foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water and arable land. We are excited to have the support from United Airlines. Together we can build the ecosystem needed to bring algae biofuels to the market,” said Oliver Fetzer, Viridos Chief Executive Officer.