ADM Bets Big on Clean Jet Fuel as Airlines Aim to Cut Emissions

Source: By Michael Hirtzer, Bloomberg • Posted: Monday, October 25, 2021

Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. is making a major move into sustainable jet fuels, and betting that airlines will remain under pressure to offset the gigantic carbon footprint of air travel.

ADM, one of the world’s biggest grain traders, has plans to slash more than half of its capacity for corn ethanol for cars and transition it to clean jet fuel production. To accomplish this, ADM is planning to work with renewable fuel maker Gevo Inc., according to a release Monday.

The move comes as the popularity of electric vehicles raises questions about the future growth of ethanol that’s blended into gasoline for cars. The past year has also been rocky for the business, with reduced driving miles during the pandemic hurting profits. Meanwhile, demand for sustainable jet fuel is expected to boom in the coming years as the aviation industry, a major source of pollution, tries to reduce carbon emissions.

Airlines are also under pressure to make quick progress toward lower emissions even though breakthrough technology like hydrogen-powered planes is years away. The alternatives are limited: sustainable aviation fuel is expensive and scarce, and purchasing carbon offsets has been criticized as ineffective.

Read more: Airline Industry Targets Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

ADM has been pivoting away from ethanol, whose profitability is dependent on U.S. blending mandates. The company sold an Illinois ethanol plant last week.

Demand for sustainable jet fuel is likely to jump to 3.6 billion gallons annually by 2030, or 3% of global jet fuel, up from less than 0.1% in 2019, according to a BloombergNEF report. Policy initiatives could push that statistic to 5.6% in a decade, the report said.

Shares for Gevo rose as much as 12% to $7.295 on Monday.