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Working Together: Southwest Airlines' 5 Main Partners For SAF production & Sourcing

Southwest Airlines aims to scale the use of SAF in its commercial operations.

By  Dr. Omar Memon, Simple Flying


PHOTO: Don Mammoser | Shutterstock
A Southwest Airlines aircraft on the apron at Denver International Airport

Southwest Airlines began using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in its commercial operations in 2022. Long before that, the world’s largest low-cost carrier established strategic partnerships with SAF producers, suppliers, and logistic companies to implement the use of SAF at scale and sustain its position to achieve its net-zero emission targets.

Simple Flying delves deeper into the partnerships Southwest Airlines has established over the years, as highlighted by the carrier’s One Report.

1 Neste 

Partnership since: 2021

Southwest’s use of SAF

January 2022

Introduced SAF to Oakland International Airport (OAK)

August 2022

Neste has been the world’s leading producer of sustainable fuels, including those used in the aviation industry. Southwest Airlines began working with Neste in 2021 to implement and streamline its use of SAF. In January 2022, the airline formally began using SAF in its commercial operations. The airline claims that in August 2022, it became the first airline to introduce SAF to Oakland International Airport (OAK).


As of 2023, OAK Airport is the third commercial airport in the US to use SAF in its daily operations. Neste produces its SAF with 100% renewable waste, such as raw material residues, cooking oils, animal waste fats, and greases. Neste claims that the resultant SAF could reduce emissions by up to 80% over the fuel lifecycle.

2 SAFFIRE 

Partnership since: June 2022  

SAFFIRE produced SAF

Could result in up to 84% reduction in emissions

Southwest Airlines has been working with SAFFIRE Renewables, a company tasked to develop and produce aviation-grade SAF. SAFFIRE aims to use corn stover to produce SAF. Corn stover, the largely available agricultural residue in the United States, can be converted into renewable ethanol, which can then be made into usable SAF.


The technology allows for scalable and cost-competitive methods to produce SAF, which could result in up to 84% reduction in emissions over the fuel lifecycle. Southwest’s investment in SAFFIRE would allow it to achieve its net-zero emissions goals sustainably. The airline believes that technology can be game-changing for the airline industry in general.


3 Velocys 

Partnership since: November 2021

Partnership agreement

15 years

SAF sourcing by Southwest

219 million gallons

Southwest Airlines and Velocys established a strategic 15-year partnership that will allow Southwest to purchase significant volumes of SAF from Velocys. Southwest Airlines said,

“As announced in November 2021, we entered into a 15-year offtake agreement with Velocys Renewables LLC (Velocys) for 219 million gallons of SAF. In 2022, Velocys announced that their proposed facility, Bayou Fuels, was re-optimized to improve the expected carbon intensity of their SAF to a negative carbon intensity of -375 gO, e/MI (previously - 144 gCOe/MJ.”

Velocys states its SAF blend with conventional jet fuel can produce 1.1 billion gallons of net-zero fuel. The SAF blend can reduce nearly 13 million metric tons of CO2 over 15 years. Southwest aims to benefit from the partnership with Velocys in its target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.


4 Marathon Petroleum 

Partnership since: 2021

Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio

Operates the nation’s largest refining system

Southwest Airlines established a strategic partnership with Marathon Petroleum in 2021 to develop and produce commercialized SAF. The airline has already begun the use of SAF and aims to strengthen its position to benefit from scaled SAF production in the future. According to Southwest,As one of the largest petroleum companies in the US, Marathon will assist Southwest in the development and sourcing of SAF.

“SAF plays an important role in our path toward net zero. By 2030, we plan to replace 10% of our total jet fuel consumption with SAF, and 2022 was another year of progress toward that goal. We began utilizing SAF in our operations, made a first-of-its-kind investment for Southwest.”

As one of the largest petroleum companies in the US, Marathon will assist Southwest in the development and sourcing of SAF.


5 Phillips 66 

Partnership since: 2021    

Headquartered in Houston, Texas

Has $55 billion of assets

Southwest Airlines formed a partnership with Phillips 66, a major US refiner and supplier of jet fuel, for the commercialization of SAF. The two parties aim to join forces to conduct research and develop market awareness of the use of SAF. Phillips 66 has a Rodeo Renewed Project, which may benefit Southwest Airlines in establishing future supply agreements for SAF.


According to Brian Mandell, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Commercials for Phillips 66,

“Phillips 66 has a long history of driving innovation in the commercial and general aviation industry. We are excited to work with Southwest Airlines to find ways to help achieve its lower-carbon goals and to develop a path forward for sustainable aviation fuel that benefits all segments of the industry.”

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