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California Energy Commission awards $5M grant to AltAir Fuels to expand renewable diesel production; $3M to GFP Ethanol for sorghum feedstock

The California Energy Commission approved $8 million in grants to two biofuel companies stemming from a solicitation issued earlier this year (PON-13-609: Pilot-Scale and Commercial-Scale Advanced Biofuels Production Facilities).

AltAir Fuels LLC (earlier post) will receive $5 million to expand production of renewable diesel fuels at its Paramount facility in Los Angeles County from 30 million gallons per year to 40 million gallons per year, and allow for processing of additional feedstocks. This facility will also co-produce renewable jet at commercial scale and a byproduct chemical and gasoline component. GFP Ethanol is receiving $3 million to support the development of sorghum as a feedstock for lower carbon intensity ethanol.

Renewable diesel. The AltAir project (ARV-14-022) will retrofit three additional tanks (feedstock and finished renewable diesel tanks) and the associated infrastructure necessary to achieve the 40 million gallon per year production goal. This phase of the planned expansion will allow for future expansion to 150 million gallon annual production volumes, scheduled for 2017.

AltAir fuels, LLC and its partners, including Honeywell’s UOP, have successfully developed, produced, and tested renewable diesel fuels in a variety of settings and for a variety of uses. Renewable diesel is a drop-in fuel that can meet the ASTM D975 quality standard, which is the existing standard for on-road diesel fuel. Renewable diesel has been subjected to rigorous on-road fleet testing throughout the US and Canada. The data from this testing indicates that renewable diesel has advantages over biodiesel for the end-user. These advantages may include a higher energy content and better cold weather performance compared to biodiesel.

The Paramount facility is unused infrastructure an existing petroleum refinery in Paramount, a brownfield retrofit construction project that will reduce or avoid the lifecycle environmental costs associated with building a new facility. Locating the project within an existing refinery ensures maximum usage of existing equipment, leverages expertise for operations and maintenance and greatly simplifies permitting needs. The California location is also strategic in its proximity to feedstock suppliers upstream and established customers downstream.

The technology employed by AltAir and its partners is feedstock flexible, allowing the new biorefinery to process multiple sources. This includes non-food sources of transportation feedstocks that can be grown on marginal lands and with minimal water, such as camelina oil. It also includes other emerging feedstocks such as algae. Due to this flexibility, this project will have the capacity to process new triglyceride feed stocks as they become commercially available.

Greenhouse gas emissions from renewable diesel are more than 80 percent lower than from petroleum diesel and approximately 40% less than from biodiesel. The co-produced renewable jet fuels are from naturally occurring oils. They are estimated to deliver a 60-65% reduction in GHG emissions relative to petroleum-derived jet fuel.

AltAir Fuels was formed in 2008 to develop projects for the production of jet fuel from renewable and sustainable oils.

Sorghum. GFP Ethanol (d/b/a Calgren Renewable Fuels, LLC) is receiving $3 million to develop a program that provides an expanded and reliable supply of grain sorghum feedstock for production of low carbon ethanol fuel. (ARV-14-021)

Cumulatively, CEC noted, ethanol comprises more than 95% of California’s biofuel production. However, based on environmental requirements; state regulatory policy; and legislative mandates, ethanol producers will need to adapt and change to deliver lower carbon intensity versions of their fuel.

The basic aim of the new agreement with the Commission is to support the transition away from corn-based ethanol to sorghum and other non-food cellulosic feedstocks.

The project, named CALGREN: California In-State Sorghum Program (CISS), combines research, demonstration, outreach, education, and market development to support the development of sorghum as a reliable and robust feedstock for the California low carbon ethanol industry.

The project is to develop and to operate a sorghum feedstock acquisition program to process approximately 91,700 tons of low carbon grain sorghum over 36 months to support production of approximately 8,908,000 gallons of sorghum ethanol. The project will also collect operational data, including the volume and carbon intensity of sorghum ethanol produced, and analyze sorghum ethanol’s economic and environmental impacts.

Biofuel grants are funded by the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) and advance the development of California-based biofuel production facilities.



There are several renewable jet fuel companies, we probably will see more of them. We want to reduce carbon emissions from jet airliners in the future, this is one way of doing that.

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