United Airlines turns to Direct Air Capture in Eco-Friendly Commercial Flight

United Airlines pledged to completely eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Under United Airlines’ plans, the first industrial-sized direct air capture plant will be established in the US.

United Airlines is turning to technology that aims to capture carbon dioxide from the air and store it underground to help offset its carbon emissions completely by 2050, a change from offset programs the airline industry and others have traditionally leaned on to reduce their footprints. United added that the technology is one of a handful of proven ways to mitigate aircraft emissions.

The Chicago-based airline on Thursday said it is making a multimillion dollar investment in a carbon-capture joint venture of Occidental Petroleum subsidiary and private equity firm Rusheen Capital Management. The company is developing a carbon capture plant in the Permian Basin in Texas.

Direct Air Capture technology is one of the few proven ways to physically correct for aircraft emissions, and can scale to capture millions and potentially billions of metric tons of CO2 per year. The captured CO2 will then be permanently, safely and securely stored deep underground by Occidental, a process certified by independent third parties. The commitment – the first to be announced in the aviation industry – will help 1PointFive build the first industrial-sized Direct Air Capture plant in the United States.

While the coronavirus pandemic has decimated air travel around the world, airlines usually generate around 2% of global carbon emissions. Carriers have used biofuels and carbon offsets, which are purchased in exchange for conserving forests and other projects.

“It may feel good in the short term but the math just doesn’t come close to adding up,” United’s CEO, Scott Kirby, said of carbon offsets on a call with reporters Wednesday. “The only way we can truly make a dent in the levels of atmospheric carbon is through direct air capture and sequestration.”


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