Alder Fuels Founder Fired Over Financial Activities

sustainable aviation fuel
Alder is developing a process to convert woody biomass into renewable fuels.
Credit: Honeywell

Renewable energy startup Alder Fuels, whose backers include United Airlines and Honeywell, has revealed that founder Bryan Sherbacow was fired as CEO in December 2022 after uncovering he “engaged in questionable financial transactions that benefited him personally.”

Alder’s board announced on Jan. 11 that Sherbacow had left the company on Dec. 27 and named Tim Obitts as acting CEO but did not give a reason. Obitts had joined Alder in September as chief legal officer. He was previously President and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association.

Alder says Sherbacow’s financial transactions were uncovered as a result of enhanced management processes. “Upon discovery, the Board immediately commenced a comprehensive review of the transactions and terminated Mr. Sherbacow for cause,” the company says.

Sherbacow founded Alder in 2021. He had previously, in 2009, co-founded AltAir Fuels, the first commercial-scale producer of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). AltAir was acquired by World Energy in 2018. 

World Energy’s Paramount, California facility produced SAF from fats, oil and greases. Sherbacow recognized the supply of these feedstocks would be limited and founded Alder to use agricultural waste and forest residues to produce a “green crude” that can be used in existing petroleum refineries to produce SAF.

The first airline to sign a long-term offtake contract for SAF with AltAir in 2013, United was also among the first investors in Alder Fuels, along with Honeywell. Subsequently, aviation fuel supplier AvFuel and private-aviation investment company Directional Aviation also invested in Alder. Boeing is collaborating with Alder on testing of its fuel.

“The company has redeveloped its strategy to ensure the entirety of its resources are directed towards achieving the singular goal of advancing commercial deployment of [Alder Green Crude] technology,” Alder says, adding personnel, operations and partnerships have been reorganized and aligned to meet this goal.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.