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ClearFuels to Develop Co-Located Commercial-Scale Biorefinery for Renewable Jet or Diesel Production in Tennessee

Biomass-to-liquids company ClearFuels Technology Inc. and Hughes Hardwood International, Inc. have executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the development of a commercial scale biorefinery facility for the production of renewable jet or diesel fuel.

The renewable energy facility will be co-located with Hughes Hardwood’s wood component products manufacturing facility in Collinwood, Tennessee. Under the MOU, Hughes Hardwood will supply 1,000 dry ton per day of wood product for conversion into approximately 16 million gallons of synthetic jet or diesel fuel and 4 million gallons of naphtha per year, as well as approximately 8 MW of excess renewable power. The project is currently expected to be operational by early 2014.

BNP Paribas will act as financial advisor in connection with assisting and supporting ClearFuels in securing financing arrangements for senior secured debt for the project. (Earlier post.)

According to ClearFuels, this is the first public confirmation of its plans for developing a number of commercial projects using the integrated ClearFuels-Rentech thermochemical technology for biomass to renewable jet or diesel fuel production.

In 2009, Rentech, the developer of a Fischer-Tropsch process for the conversion of syngas derived from biomass and fossil resources into synthetic fuels, specialty waxes and chemicals, acquired a 25% stake in ClearFuels Technology Inc. through a strategic investment. (Earlier post.)

ClearFuels, established in 1998, has exclusive rights to a proprietary High Efficiency Hydrothermal Reformer (HEHTR) and process for biomass to syngas conversion (BTG). The ClearFuels technology can convert multiple cellulosic biomass feedstocks such as sugarcane bagasse and virgin wood waste into clean synthesis gas (syngas) suitable for integration with synthetic gas-to-liquids technologies.

ClearFuels and Rentech are integrating ClearFuels’ BTG technology platform with Rentech’s Fischer-Tropsch Process for the production of certified renewable synthetic jet and diesel fuels at commercial-scale facilities.

Synthetic diesel fuel produced from the Rentech Process meets ASTM D-975 specifications. Synthetic jet fuel produced using the company’s technology is certified by the US Air Force and for commercial aviation use.

According to ClearFuels, this commercial facility is targeted to break ground in late 2011 following completion of its joint demonstration project with Rentech of the companies’ integrated technologies for the production of renewable fuels at Rentech’s Energy Technology Center in Commerce City, Colorado. This joint demonstration is expected to be completed in late 2011. This demonstration project is supported by a $22.6 million conditional grant from the US Department of Energy. (Earlier post.) ClearFuels expects to begin receiving funds from this grant by the end of March.

ClearFuels has begun project development of multiple commercial scale biomass-to-energy facilities in the southeastern United States, Hawaii and internationally. These projects are expected to use an integrated ClearFuels-Rentech design and be co-located at sugar mills, wood mills and other biomass processing facilities. According to ClearFuels, projects will be based on non-recourse project finance through special purpose entities (LLCs), similar to the proven independent power projects business model. ClearFuels’ management has experience with over $10 billion of energy infrastructure financing based on this model and has with engaged BNP Paribas as debt advisor for its leadership experience in project finance.



This is an example of an energy plant with a steady source of biomass. Hawaii has shown an interest in this because they import most of their energy, when they have abundant biomass, wind and geothermal energy right on the islands.

Kit P

Actually, it is an example of a press release.


Whatever...snide comments do not help the discussion.


1000 dry tons/day at 17.4 GJ/ton is 17.4 TJ/day.

16 million gallons "distillate" per year at 140,000 BTU/gallon = 6.5 TJ/day
4 million gallons naptha per year at 115,000 BTU/gallon = 1.3 TJ/day
8 MW = 0.7 TJ/day

Total yield is roughly 8.5 TJ/day, or less than 50% efficiency. (I have to wonder if the figures would be better if the product was methanol instead of hydrocarbons, and by how much.)

The Billion-Ton Vision found the potential of 1.3 billion tons of biomass per year in the USA. Using these figures, there's enough to run roughly 3600 of these plants. The whole mess could produce about 57 billion gallons of diesel/jet fuel (a large fraction of US consumption), but only about 14 billion gallons of naptha—a bit over 10% of US gasoline consumption.

This is entirely consistent with all the other numbers which prove, beyond any doubt, that biofuels from higher plants are NOT going to continue BAU. The bulk of any viable program will involve efficiency and electrification.


There may be synergies with wood products plants, paper pulp mills, food processing and other operations that could combine in an energy plant. It makes no sense to release rejected heat to the environment when it could be used in making biofuels.

We may not be able to create all the jet fuel from biomass, but even some would help to reduce oil imports. We will get on with electrifying the transport sector over time, but some priorities have to be established to do the most good with the fewest resources in the shortest time.

black ice

"This is entirely consistent with all the other numbers which prove, beyond any doubt, that biofuels from higher plants are NOT going to continue BAU. The bulk of any viable program will involve efficiency and electrification."
In the US, with the current US driving habits, definitely not. Not so in many other countries, even in advanced western European countries, where biofuels can cover a very substantial portion of transportation fuel without putting excessive effort in producing them.
Yes, methanol as the final product can theoretically improve overall efficiency of the process. Conversion of syngas to hydrocarbons is highly exothermic (a major efficiency loss), but it is less so for the methanol synthesis. Similarly, HC's can be obtained from methanol as in Mobil MTG process, which is exothermic with part of the chemical energy of methanol being lost as the reaction heat. However, methanol synthesis require very large pressures and therefore lots of energy for compression. Furthermore, methanol synthesis is done with huge recycle ratios, with low conversion per pass. HC synthesis can be done at atmospheric pressure, and is done in a single pass over the catalyst with conversions of up to 80%.

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