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United Airlines Invests $5 Million in Startup to Study Greener Jet Fuel

Date: March 31, 2022

By Justin Bachman, Bloomberg

United Airlines Holdings Inc. is investing in a startup that could help make larger quantities of jet fuel that’s more environmentally friendly.

United on Tuesday announced an initial $5 million investment in Cemvita Factory Inc. and is “contemplating a larger relationship,” according to Mike Leskinen, president of the airline’s venture fund. The Houston-based startup is also backed by Occidental Petroleum Corp.

Cemvita Factory is researching genetically modified microbes to turn carbon dioxide into useful hydrocarbons. That could potentially lead to an efficient, low-energy way of producing sustainable aviation fuel, Leskinen said. The global airline industry aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This is the eighth investment for United’s venture capital fund, including two other startups devising ways to produce sustainable jet fuel at larger scales. The fund has also financed projects for electric planes, supersonic jets and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Cemvita Factory said in October that it had raised just over $10 million to date. The company plans a “huge fundraising” effort later this year, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Moji Karimi said.

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