Fulcrum BioEnergy: Biofuels Digest’s 5-Minute Guide

November 8, 2012 |

4900 Hopyard Road Suite 200
Pleasanton, CA 94588

Year founded

Company description:
Fulcrum design, develop, own and will operate facilities that convert sorted, post-recycled municipal solid waste, or MSW, into ethanol. Fulcrum have entered into long-term, fixed, zero-cost MSW feedstock agreements which will provide us with a significant competitive advantage over companies using alternative feedstocks for the production of biofuel. their proprietary process, built around numerous commercial systems available today, has been tested, demonstrated and will be deployed on a commercial scale at facilities that Fulcrum will build, own and operate.

Fulcrum is ready to begin construction on their first commercial scale project, the Sierra BioFuels Plant (Sierra) located approximately 20 miles east of Reno, Nevada.

Major Investors
Fulcrum is privately held and financed by US Renewables Group (USRG) and Rustic Canyon Partners (Rustic Canyon). USRG manages a portfolio of renewable power and clean-fuel assets, and Rustic Canyon is one of the largest venture capital firms based in Southern California.

Type of Technology(ies)
Fulcrum’s proprietary process converts MSW into ethanol. This process, built around numerous commercial systems available today, has been tested, demonstrated and will be deployed on a commercial scale at facilities that Fulcrum will build, own and operate. Fulcrum utilize sorted, post-recycled MSW and convert it into ethanol using a two-step thermochemical process that consists of gasification followed by alcohol synthesis.

Gasification System

Fulcrum’s gasification system is comprised of a down-draft partial oxidation gasifier, a Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEMTM) and a thermal residence chamber that Fulcrum have purchased from InEnTec. Fulcrum’s first plant, Sierra, will utilize three trains of this gasification system to convert the organic material in the MSW feedstock to a syngas consisting primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Alcohol Synthesis Process
Fulcrum’s proprietary alcohol synthesis process incorporates a catalyst that was developed and is owned by Nipawin and SRC. The Nipawin/SRC catalyst is very similar to hydrotreating catalyst used in almost every refinery in the world. The catalyst contains no precious or rare earth metals and can be recycled by the catalyst manufacturer.

Fulcrum’s feedstock will consist primarily of the organic material found in MSW, which is currently being landfilled.


Although Fulcrum’s main product for Sierra will be ethanol, the catalyst and their proprietary alcohol synthesis process provide us with the flexibility to produce other alcohols, such as methanol and propanol.

Product Cost 

Fulcrum believes Fulcrum can produce advanced biofuel at a production cost of approximately $1.30 per gallon at Sierra, a substantially lower cost per gallon than traditional fuels and other renewable biofuels. Fulcrum believe their production process will also generate sufficient electricity to operate their facilities, contributing to their lower production costs. The modular design of their technology will allow them to more efficiently construct future facilities with up to six times the production capacity of Sierra, which Fulcrum believe will lower their production costs below $1.00 per gallon.

Offtake partners

Fulcrum has entered into a three-year off-take agreement with Tenaska BioFuels, LLC for the full output of Sierra.

Past Milestones
• Completed construction and began operations of their TurningPoint Ethanol 
Demonstration Plant to demonstrate their proprietary alcohol synthesis process utilizing a full-scale reactor identical to those that will be used at Sierra. To date, Fulcrum have successfully operated the demonstration plant for more than 8,000 hours.
• Entered into an EPC contract with Fluor for Sierra. Continued development efforts with the project and progressed to detailed engineering, with construction beginning by the end of 2011.
• Raised the equity capital needed for the construction of Sierra ($86 million).

Future Milestones
• Complete construction and commence commercial operations of Sierra, their first 
waste-to-biofuels facility.
• Develop and bring to construction at least two additional, larger waste-to-biofuels facilities in the U.S.
• Continue development efforts on 15+ additional project opportunities throughout out U.S. when once completed, along with the other projects mentioned above, will produce more than 700 million gallons of advanced biofuels each year.

Business Model:


Competitive Edge(s):

Fulcrum’s production facilities will provide numerous social and environmental benefits. By providing a reliable source of domestic renewable transportation fuels, their facilities will be helping the United States reduce its dependence on foreign oil. In addition, Fulcrum expect their process will reduce GHG emissions by more than 75% compared to traditional gasoline production.

Other competitive strengths include:

Feedstock Economics: Fulcrum have entered into long-term, zero-cost contracts for enough MSW located throughout the United States to produce more than 700 million gallons of ethanol per year. their stable cost structure, based on long- term zero-cost MSW feedstock arrangements, will allow us to enter into fixed-price off-take contracts or hedges to secure attractive unit economics.

Infrastructure. By using MSW, Fulcrum benefit from existing infrastructure for collection, hauling and handling. No new logistical networks would be required to transport the feedstock to their facilities.

Technology: Fulcrum have licensed and purchased the gasification system from a third party. their alcohol synthesis process demonstration unit has operated at full scale for more than 8,000 hours. Fulcrum have filed patent applications for the integration of the MSW to ethanol process.

Electrical Supply: The Fulcrum process will generate enough electricity to power their plants and reduce their reliance on external electricity sources. 
Research, or

Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances.
Fulcrum has been successful in securing long-term, zero-cost MSW feedstock agreements with national, large solid waste companies to provide us with a reliable and abundant stream of MSW not only for Sierra BioFuels, but also for future projects that Fulcrum expect to develop in locations throughout the United States. Currently Fulcrum have access to enough zero-cost MSW feedstock across 19 states to produce more than 700 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Sierra will be a commercial-scale waste-to-biofuels facility. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2011 with commercial operations commencing during the second half of 2013.

Company website

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