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Fulcrum Bioenergy awards $200M EPC contract to Abengoa for MSW-to-jet plant

Fulcrum BioEnergy has awarded a $200-million fixed-price engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to Abengoa for the construction of Fulcrum’s first municipal solid waste (MSW) to transportation fuels facility, the Sierra BioFuels Plant. The Sierra BioFuels Plant will utilize Fulcrum’s process for converting MSW into renewable syncrude that will then be upgraded to jet fuel. (Earlier post.)

The Fulcrum process begins with the gasification of the organic material in the MSW feedstock to a synthesis gas (syngas) which consists primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This syngas is purified and processed through the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process to produce a syncrude product which is then upgraded to jet fuel or diesel.

  • Fulcrum licensed the gasification technology from ThermoChem Recovery International. During the gasification process, the prepared MSW feedstock rapidly heats up upon entry into the steam-reforming gasifier and almost immediately converts to syngas. A venturi scrubber captures and removes any entrained particulate, and the syngas is further cooled in a packed gas cooler scrubber. The cleaned syngas is them processed through an amine system to capture and remove sulfur and carbon dioxide. The syngas then enters the secondary gas clean-up section that contains compression to increase syngas to the pressure required by the FT process. The end syngas product is very clean with zero sulfur content.

  • The FT portion of Fulcrum’s process is an adaptation of the well-established Fischer-Tropsch process which has been in commercial operations for decades. In the FT process, the purified syngas is processed through a fixed-bed tubular reactor where it reacts with a proprietary catalyst to form three intermediate FT products, a Heavy Fraction FT Liquids (HFTL) product; a Medium Fraction FT Liquids (MFTL) product; and a Light Fraction FT Liquids (LFTL) product, commonly called Naphtha. The Naphtha is recycled to the partial oxidation unit with remaining tail gas to be reformed to hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

  • In the last step, hydrotreating, hydrocracking and hydroisomerization upgrading steps are used to upgrade the combined HFTL and MFTL products into jet fuel.

Abengoa will construct Sierra under a fixed price contract that guarantees the schedule, start-up and performance of the plant.

Located approximately 20 miles east of Reno, Nevada, Sierra will produce renewable syncrude that will be upgraded to more than 10 million gallons of jet fuel annually while diverting more than 200,000 tons of garbage from the local landfill when it enters commercial operations in the third quarter of 2017.

Abengoa is an important strategic partner for Fulcrum and will continue to help advance Fulcrum’s development program. Fulcrum has entered into numerous strategic relationships throughout the value chain including waste services companies, technology providers and product offtake companies. Last year, Cathay Pacific Airways became an equity investor in Fulcrum and entered into a long-term fuel offtake agreement. (Earlier post.)

Fulcrum also entered into key relationships with the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of Agriculture for the construction of Sierra. (Earlier post.)

With long-term MSW feedstock contracts and fuel offtake agreements in place, Fulcrum is advancing development on additional projects across North America that will have the capacity to produce more than 300 million gallons of low-carbon, renewable transportation fuels annually.



$200M is a very round number for a "fixed-price engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract".

I hope it works out well for them.


I think we all like seeing these winners that were helped.


Let's see...

50 gallons per ton.  At roughly 1 ton MSW per capita per year in the USA, that would produce roughly 15 billion gallons/year of jet fuel.  As I recall, that is roughly in line with actual consumption.


Even if this process isn't energy efficient or very cost efficient, (though AV gas can cost $8/gal) It would have several benefits.

Reducing virgin crude consumption / Security
Reducing waste to landfill
Significantly cleaner fuels in planes

I think solids from Waste water should be used too. This could save cities money in the process...where the process is paid for the end product. Imagine the scaling that could happen.

FT can be used to make almost any fraction, and can be used for nearly anything that we consumers use, its not like if they have the installed capacity they couldn't find a use for it.

I think this is one of the few areas were the government should intervene as it is municipal waste and could benefit every one. Especially if it can be done close to what fuel prices are now.

Land is finite, fuel is finite, resources/capital are close to finite, best make the best of a situation.


Jet-A is a lot cheaper than aviation gasoline.  Avgas is a tiny niche product, Jet-A is a substantial fraction of all petroleum use.

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