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US agribusiness company Green Plains has entered a joint venture with energy infrastructure company Tallgrass and United Airlines to develop sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from ethanol by 2028.

The joint venture – named Blue Blade Energy – would provide up to 511M litres/year (135M gallons/year) of SAF, Green Plains said on 31 January.

If the technology was successful, construction of a pilot facility was expected to begin in 2024, with commercial operations underway by 2028, the company said.

“This new joint venture includes two… collaborators that have the experience to construct and operate large-scale infrastructure, as well as the feedstock supply necessary for success. Once operational, Blue Blade Energy has the potential to create United’s largest source of SAF,” United Airlines ventures president Michael Leskinen said.

As part of the venture, Green Plains said Tallgrass would manage research and development of the technology, including pilot plant development, and would manage the construction of the production facility; Green Plains would supply the ethanol feedstock and provide its ethanol industry experience to manage operations once the pilot facility was constructed; and United Airlines would assist with SAF development, fuel certification and into-wing logistics, and had also agreed to purchase up to 10.2bn litres (2.7bn gallons) of SAF produced from the joint venture.

Although the initial SAF facility would use ethanol, the technology had the capability to work with any alcohol-based feedstock as its fuel source, Green Plains said.

A leading bio-refining company, Green Plains produces low-carbon biofuels, renewable feedstocks for advanced biofuels and high-purity alcohols for use in cleaners and disinfectants.