Southwest Airlines Acquires SAFFiRE to Produce Sustainable Aviation Fuel from Corn Stover

April 3, 2024
Initially, the plant aims to utilize SAFFiRE’s exclusive technology license from the NREL to process 10 tons of corn stover per day for the production of renewable ethanol, which will then be converted into SAF by LanzaJet

Southwest Airlines has acquired SAFFiRE Renewables as part of the investment portfolio of its wholly owned subsidiary Southwest Airlines Renewable Ventures (SARV) to create more opportunities for Southwest to obtain scalable, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)

SAFFiRE is part of a DOE-supported project to develop and produce scalable renewable ethanol that can be upgraded into SAF. To do this, SAFFiRE will utilize technology developed by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to convert corn stover - a common residue feedstock - into renewable ethanol. 

“This acquisition marks Southwest’s transition from investor to sole owner of SAFFiRE, expressing our confidence in SAFFiRE’s technology and its potential to advance our sustainability goals as well as the goals of the broader industry,” said Bob Jordan, President & CEO of Southwest Airlines. “Championing SAF is a key pillar of Southwest’s Nonstop to Net Zero plan and our work toward a more sustainable future for air travel.”

Southwest first invested in SAFFiRE during phase one of the pilot project in 2022, and with the acquisition, the company is expected to proceed with phase two of the project by developing a pilot plant at Conestoga’s Arkalon Energy ethanol facility in Liberal, Kansas. 

Initially, the plant aims to utilize SAFFiRE’s exclusive technology license from the NREL to process 10 tons of corn stover per day for the production of renewable ethanol, which will then be converted into SAF by LanzaJet - another company Southwest has an investment in. 

"Renewable ethanol is an important feedstock to realizing high-volume, affordable SAF, which is a critical part of the journey to net zero carbon emissions,” said Tom Nealon, President of SARV and CEO of SAFFiRE.