USDA awards loan guarantee for jet fuel biorefinery

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2014 - USDA is awarding Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels LLC a loan guarantee for $105 million to build a biorefinery to produce jet fuel from municipal solid waste.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award today in a speech at the National Energy Conference in Las Vegas. The loan guarantee represents less than half of the cost of the $266 million project, which is expected to produce 11 million gallons of fuel annually. The facility is being built in McCarran, Nevada.

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“This represents a huge step forward in the development of clean, renewable, job-creating American fuels,” Vilsack said in a news release. “The nation is entering a new energy age that will make us more energy independent, cut carbon pollution and strengthen our economy, especially in rural communities where clean fuels will be produced."

The loan guarantee - the first USDA has made for the production of bio jet fuel -- was awarded as part of the department's Biorefinery Assistance Program and issued through Bank of America N.A.

Fulcrum will produce synthesis gas from municipal solid waste and catalytically convert it to synthetic paraffinic kerosene/jet fuel through a proprietary technology. The company says it expects the plant will be the first of several bio jet fuel plants throughout the country.

Last month, Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it is investing in Fulcrum Bioenergy Inc., the parent company of Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, and has negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum for 375 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years. This would represent about 2 percent of the airline's annual fuel consumption.

USDA awarded the first loan guarantee in 2009 to Sapphire Energy in New Mexico. Sapphire has already paid off its $54.5 million loan guarantee, USDA said. The program's current portfolio includes Fremont Community Digester, located in Fremont, Michigan, which received a $12.8 million loan in 2011 to convert food and agricultural waste to biogas that is used as fuel to generate electricity. INEOS New Plant Bioenergy, located in Vero Beach, Florida, received a $75 million loan in 2011 to produce cellulosic ethanol from woody biomass and municipal solid waste.

USDA said it is negotiating three additional loans for biorefineries in Iowa, North Carolina and Oregon. These loans would provide financing to produce renewable fuels from woody biomass, municipal solid waste and energy grasses such as switch grass and miscanthus. One of these ventures will retrofit an existing corn ethanol facility to produce cellulosic ethanol.

Congress established the Biorefinery Assistance Program in the 2008 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the program to include bio-based renewable chemicals and bio-based product manufacturing.

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