On September 4, the USDA announced it would provide a $105 million loan guarantee through the Biorefinery Assistance Program, a provision of the Farm Bill’s Energy Title, to Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels, LLC, of Nevada. The news came just weeks after Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific announced a major investment into Fulcrum, along with a contract with the company to provide 375 million gallons of renewable jet fuel in a ten-year period, roughly 2 percent of the carrier’s annual fuel consumption. The Fulcrum biorefineries that will source Cathay Pacific will be mostly located in North America.
Feedstocks for Fulcrum’s first plant will be 147,000 tons of municipal solid waste, which will be converted into renewable jet fuel. Fulcrum expects that several such plants will be built throughout the United States. Previous loans made through the USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program include Sapphire Energy of New Mexico, to produce algae biofuels, and INEOS New Plant Bioenergy, of Florida, which uses woody biomass and municipal solid waste as feedstocks. According to USDA, they are also in the process of awarding three more loan guarantees for biorefineries in Iowa, North Carolina, and Oregon. All of the pending loan guarantees are for plants that would produce advanced or cellulosic biofuels – of the outstanding loans, Sapphire has already repaid its $54.5 million loan to the USDA.
Cathay Pacific has pledged to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020. According to Cathay Pacific Biofuel Manager Jeff Ovens, “[Fulcrum] has proved that its technology is viable and has supply commitments in place for feedstock needed for the fuel production. These supply commitments will cover both near-term and future developments.” In related news, Sir Richard Branson’s non-profit Carbon War Room recently released a Request For Information on renewable jet fuel. The group is seeking renewable fuel producers that could produce 100 million gallons of renewable jet fuel in the next five years. A tall order – but one that’s necessary, for the airline industry to lower carbon inputs and reduce the immense costs associated with petroleum-based jet fuel.
For more information see:
Seeking Renewable Fuel Produers, Carbon War Room