Ensyn nabs Chevron exec as new CEO

January 28, 2016 |

BD TS Ensyn 012916-smJacobs’ back and Ensyn’s got him. The complete story.

Jeffrey Jacobs, who served as Vice President of Chevron Technology Ventures until his recent retirement from Chevron, was appointed CEO of Ensyn Corporation and elected to its Board of Directors. Jacobs was also appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of Envergent Technologies, Ensyn’s joint venture with Honeywell UOP.

Jacobs is Chairman of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s BioEnergy Technical Review Panel. In addition, he serves as the Chairman of the Commercial Advisory Board for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership centered at Arizona State University.

The Chevron-Ensyn story

Previously, Jacobs identified, sponsored and demonstrated emerging technologies and championed their integration into Chevron, including leading the formation of Catchlight Energy, Chevron’s joint venture with Weyerhaeuser launched in 2008 to develop advanced biofuels from forest-based biomass, where he served as chairman of the Catchlight board.

During the initial formation stages, Rick Zalesky was leading the biofuels business unit and hydrogen, where Jacobs was business manager. In 2008, Zaleky became General Manager of Strategy for Chevron Downstream and Jacobs succeed him as the head of biofuels unit.

The Chevron biofuels story from 2008 onward is essentially one of retreat — not quite as much to do with the biofuels business unit itself, but more about internal shuffling at Planet Chevron. John Watson replaced Dave O’Reilly as CEO, John MacDonald replaced Don Paul as CTO, and Desmond King replaced Dana Flanders as President of Chevron Technology Ventures. Watson and King were more bio-skeptic than their predecessors. MacDonald — who supervised Energy Technology, Information Technology CTV, had been almost exclusively an upstream (production and exploration) executive, and the downstream options with biofuels languished.  Essentially, not a time for major investments, but internal R&D also languished as Chevron attention shifted to collaborations, for example, with NREL.

However, Chevron had established strategic partnerships with Solazyme and Ensyn, along the way. Jacobs has been keeping those flames alive, until retiring from Chevron in recent months.

Specifically, CTV is applying Chevron’s proprietary upgrading technologies and know-how at Chevron’s refineries in order to convert Ensyn’s RTP liquids produced from a variety of non-food cellulosic biomass feedstocks into blendstocks for transportation fuels, such as gasoline and diesel. Not unlike the work underway with between Ensyn and Tesoro, which we detail below.

The latest from Ensyn

Ensyn has been very much on the move in recent weeks. Earlier this month we reported that Ensyn plans to begin retrofitting a particle board manufacturing facility in Dooly County to produce 20 million gallons of renewable fuel from waste wood annually. The company is investing $100 million in the facility and hopes to have it online by January 2017. Farmers who sell their timber to the new plant can expect to earn around $120 per acre while the facility itself will add up to 138 new jobs in a rural county that was devastated by the particle board’s closure.

Last week, we reported that Ensyn has applied for a pathway with the California Air Resources Board to co-process its biocrude, produced from tree residue – called Renewable Fuel Oil – in Tesoro’s California refineries.

US Ag Secretary Vilsack on the Ensyn loan guarantee

In an exclusive interview with The Digest, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that a $70 million conditional loan guarantee awarded to Ensyn late last year represented the 10th investment by the USDA as part of the Section 9003 program in the Farm Bill, and said that this advanced Rapid Thermal Process project, which will utilize woody biomass as its feedstock, “demonstrates the commitment of the US government to help this industry move forward.” Financing will be provided by Citi.

Vilsack told the Digest that, from the BCAP program, to working on increasing exports and working to expand the market for higher-blend fuels and leading trade missions, the USDA was working hard to support the deployment of advanced biofuels and chemicals projects.

The loan guarantee announcement came just days after the EPA’s release of final volume obligations for renewable fuels in 2015 and 2016, volumes that drew sharp criticism from cellulosic fuels advocates who have termed the volumes a “gut punch to advanced biofuels.” Vilsack described the timing of the loan guarantee as coincidental, noting that “it takes a long time to put these loan guarantees together.”  However, biomass based diesel of the type

But Vilsack also noted that changes in the USDA’s process in the Obama Administration had greatly sped up the process and  expanded the field of banks. He noted that previous rules had required the bank to sign off on the technology before the issuing of a loan guarantee.

“That makes no sense at all, Bankers are bankers, not engineers or scientists. Changing that rule [to have sign-off by scientists) is expediting the process.”

Vilsack also praised Congress for expanding the scope of the loan guarantees to include chemicals, so that integrated biorefineries could be included for loan guarantee considerations.

“We’re very interested in woody biomass,” said the Secretary, “but he noted that the loan guarantee program structure had helped projects in the Northwest, the Southwest and the Midwest, as well as the woody biomass-replete Southeast.”

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