Top 10 visuals for Cool Planet, as it breaks ground on commercial-scale advanced biofuels plant

February 27, 2014 |

CoolPlanet-smLouisiana facility to produce green fuels and biochar from sustainable wood residues.

Here — the project, and the products, in pictures.

In Louisiana, Cool Planet Energy Systems broke ground on the company’s first commercial facility in Alexandria, Louisiana, dubbed Project Genesis. Permits have been received to begin earthwork and grading, with construction to immediately follow.

The facility is designed to produce 10 million gallons per year of high-octane, renewable gasoline blendstocks, as well as biochar, all made from sustainable wood residues.

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The facility will be located at the Port of Alexandria, on the Red River Waterway in Central Louisiana. The site was chosen because of its excellent wood biomass availability, interstate and rail access, and direct barge access to more than nine refineries. The facility is expected to produce at least 24 direct jobs and bring at least $56 million in economic investment into the state. Estimates are that an additional 150 indirect jobs will result because of this facility, and 350 construction jobs will be utilized.

Timeline to scale

This first commercial plant at the Port of Alexandria will begin operations in late 2014. Construction will begin on the second bio-refinery at the Port of Natchitoches by the summer of 2015, with a completion date in the summer of 2016. The third site is scheduled to come online in late 2016 at a Louisiana site to be determined.

Reaction from Cool Planet

“Today’s groundbreaking is an important step forward in our plan to aggressively commercialize Cool Planet’s technology,” said CEO Howard Janzen. “We could not have picked a better location to build our first commercial facility and start transforming the nation’s fuel and food supplies.”

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“Cool Planet’s unique business model of building smaller, significantly less expensive facilities closer to the biomass feedstock, will allow them to expand rapidly, achieve lower scale-up risk, and continuously innovate and improve with each facility,” said Cool Planet Board Member Basil Horangic. “This is a more sustainable model that will help Cool Planet commercialize its technology faster and deliver cost-competitive solutions to the agriculture and energy industries.”

Cool Planet strategic investors include BP, Google Ventures, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips, NRG Energy), and the Constellation division of Exelon.

Cool Planet’s technology turns biomass into green fuels and biochar and has the capability to be carbon negative. The company’s green fuels are able to be blended directly into the current fuel supply to reduce greenhouse gases from the air without sacrificing performance or increasing prices at the pump. The biochar product sequesters carbon and delivers transformative benefits to industries as diverse as agriculture, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. As a soil amendment, field trials of the company’s Cool Terra™ biochar with commercial growers have shown yield improvements of more than 50% with significant reductions in fertilizer and water use.

The Cool Planet system

The technology is based on the principles of pyrolysis but is not your Dad’s pyro system – not by a long shot.

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The Cool Planet idea is essentially one of sequestration. Instead of running the biomass over one magic catalyst in a fluidized bed reactor, and then trying to do something with the resulting pyro oil, Cool Planet’s systems is based on a series of reactions.

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“The biomass fractioner is fundamentally different than flash pyrolysis, Cool Planet founder Mike Cheiky told the Digest, “because we fundamentally deconstruct biomass in an orderly fashion, to preserve as much bond energy as possible. By decomposing in orderly process, we dig deeper into the fragments, and this gives us the freedom to prices the carbon in any way we want.But I don’t want to fixate on one process. What we are discussing today is just one of many process pathways, and we are not wed to any specific way; we have the flexibility to do that. In your normal VC set up, if your technology doesn’t work, you’re done and they sell off the parts – think of Range Fuels as an example. We are on a mission, not about a process.”

Economics

Plant #1 — $56 Million into the operating portion of the plant for 10 million gallons, or $5.60 per gallon of capacity, which doesn’t include some of the site work and preparation that the port will be doing.  Presumably future plants will – either through optimizing design, or scale — will drop.

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Business model and deployment

The company’s business model calls for developing 400 of the micro-refineries across the U.S. in the next decade. Major Cool Planet investors include BP, Google Ventures, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips and NRG Energy), North Bridge Venture Partners, Shea Ventures and the Constellation division of Exelon.

So, what’s the scale up plan? Cool Planet says that it intends to mass produce refining equipment, are built in modules on moveable skids, a flexible modular open architecture system, which makes the roll-out faster and field-upgradable.
Cool Planet is on its third generation design now, and expects to have its first mass producible plant open in the September period, producing what it calls 400,000 gallon per year sub-scale systems, and is expecting a fourth generation design by Spring 2013.

Scale

Cool Planet’s production plants will be 100 times smaller than a typical oil refinery, but the company’s largely prefabricated systems can be moved near concentrated biomass sources, reducing transportation costs and increasing efficiency. Those savings will enable the company to produce gasoline blendstock that’s competitive with oil refineries at prices as low as $50 per barrel while eliminating the need for government fuel credits or subsidies.

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More about Cool Terra

Using a proprietary process, Cool Planet also will market biochar, a byproduct of the refining process that will be used as an agricultural supplement to boost water retention and reduce carbon released from crops. This process makes Cool Planet’s overall production cycle a carbon-negative process – meaning the project will achieve a net reduction of greenhouse gases.

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The process also generates value through biochar production, which can be returned to the soil, enabling fertilizer and water retention for increased crop productivity and more robust plant health. The process can be carbon-negative, removing up to 150 percent of the carbon footprint for every gallon used, reversing the consequences of fossil fuels.

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Last October, Cool Planet announced the launch of their biochar soil amendment product “Cool Terra” for commercial agricultural trials. Rick Wilson, Vice President of the Cool Planet Biochar Group, made the announcement at the 2013 US Biochar conference. It plans to continue expanding application opportunities with selected partners in the agricultural community leading to commercial product release in 2014.

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Expansion beyond Louisiana: Malaysia

Last October, Cool Planet Energy Systems and Acritaz Greentech announced that they have signed an agreement to explore the building of multiple commercial facilities in Malaysia.

The plan is to begin construction on the first plant in 2014.   Acritaz will work with Cool Planet to use biomass raw materials local to the region that include palm plantation waste products such as empty fruit bunches, wood, and bark waste to make renewable, cellulosic fuels for the Asian market.

Acritaz will work to commit $60 million to the first facility before the end of 2013.  The first commercial facility is planned to be located in the Malaysian state of Johor.  Acritaz and Cool Planet will then work to build multiple facilities across Malaysia, with Acritaz purchasing proprietary equipment and consumables from Cool Planet in the construction and operation of the facilities.

Acritaz and Cool Planet will develop a plant design that satisfies the specific needs of Malaysia, including feedstock selection, biochar production, and specification of the final fuel.

Asia-Pac wide

Last September, Concord Energy announced that it has signed an agreement with Cool Planet Energy Systems to establish a joint-venture in the Asia Pacific Region. The JV will develop commercial production facilities for the conversion of non-food biomass into biofuels and soil enhancing biochar. Concord Energy has also made a financial investment in Cool Planet.

The Bottom Line

A huge step forward for a fuel with a ton of promise.

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