• Airline agrees to purchase 33 million gallons of blend a year
  • Carrier to start using new mixture in first quarter of 2019

JetBlue Airways Corp. will burn a mixture of biofuel and traditional jet kerosene on some flights at New York City-area airports under a 10-year purchase agreement designed to cut aircraft pollution and costs.

The airline will purchase more than 33 million gallons of blended fuel annually under the contract with S.G. Preston Co., a bioenergy company based in Philadelphia, JetBlue said in a statement Monday. It is the longest and among the largest of such agreements in the U.S. aviation industry, the New York-based carrier said.

United Continental Holdings Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. have made similar arrangements to try to reduce jet emissions which, according to the United Nations, account for about 2 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas output. A proposed climate accord that would limit global aircraft emissions may be completed at a meeting this fall of the UN’s aviation agency. The U.S. currently has no such standards.

“We are not going to sit around and wait for a legislator to tell us we have to buy a certain type of fuel that doesn’t exist on the market yet,” Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s head of sustainability, said in an interview. “We have to be proactive.”

New Refinery

The new fuel will be a mix of 30 percent propellant made from renewable plant oils and 70 percent jet kerosene. S.G. Preston is building a refinery to produce the biofuel, and JetBlue will begin using it in the first quarter of 2019. While the biofuel is competitively priced with traditional jet A kerosene, the program is expected to reduce the carrier’s fuel costs, Mendelsohn said. She declined to be more specific.

The portion of the fuel from plant oils is projected to cut emissions at least 50 percent per gallon. The reduction for the blended product is expected to be “a very good number,” she said, but was unable to provide a figure.

The amount to be purchased equals about 20 percent of the airline’s annual fuel use at John F. Kennedy International Airport and 4.7 percent of its total yearly consumption. About 20 percent of JetBlue’s daily flights originate at a New York metropolitan area airport, where the fuel will be used.

United in March began using sustainable biofuel on daily flights at Los Angeles International Airport under a three-year, 15 million-gallon agreement with AltAir Paramount LLC. Southwest and FedEx Corp. will use biofuel produced by Red Rock Biofuels LLC from forest waste. The Fort Collins, Colorado-based company expects to begin construction of its first refinery this year and to ship jet fuel starting in 2018, said Southwest, which will buy 3 million gallons a year.

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