The Big $55M Drop-in Military Biofuels Op

January 24, 2017 |

In Washington, the Office of the Secretary of Defense announced a $55M funding opportunity for a 10M gallon biorefinery capable of producing advanced drop-in bio-equivalent fuels suitable for military use. Proposals may take the form of either Brown Field expansion/modification of existing Pilot-scale facilities, commercial-scale facilities, or new Green Field construction. Attention will be paid to enhancing merchant supplier capabilities in order to effectively serve the broad DoD and non-DoD communities.

This Title III project is aiming at “a complete value chain including Feedstock production, Chemical conversion and processing, and Fuels blending, transportation and logistics.”

The time and the money

There will be just the one award, and the expected project would come in at $110M. There would be up to a $55M Government share plus $55M Recipient share.

Projects will be executed in 2 (two) Phases. The Government will provide up to $8M Government share (plus Recipient share) for Phase 1. The Government will provide up to $47M Government share (plus Recipient share) for Phase 2. Selected awardees will be required to share at least 50% of the total project cost.

The anticipated period of performance for this award is 66 months total, including 30 months for Phase 1 (Planning, Preliminary Design and Financial Close), followed by up to 36 months for Phase 2 (Construction, Commissioning and Performance Testing).

Fiscal year 2013? Fiscal year 2016? What is going on here? Yes, it’s the original $55M that was held back in case Nature’s Bioreserve was able to put a feasible project together, which doesn’t appear to have happened. As we reported in September 2014, “Nature’s BioReserve was also awarded a Phase 1 grant to complete more extensive engineering and plans in support of a commercial-scale project.” But they just never got to Ready-for-Prime-Time status.

Originally, Nature’s Bioreserve was back in the dawn of history, also known as 2010, as a beef tallow biodiesel plant targeted for South Sioux City, Nebraska with a capacity of up to 60 million gallons — ultimatwly repurposed conceptually for military biofuels.

Let’s rewind briefly.

Back in 2014, the Department of Defense awarded $210 million under the Defense Production Act to Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum BioEnergy and Red Rock Bio towards the construction of biorefineries that produce cost-competitive, drop-in military biofuels. Under the grants, the companies will build biorefineries to produce military spec fuel that is expected to cost the US military, on a weighted average, less than $3.50 per gallon — or cost competitive with petroleum-based fuels, with availability expected as soon as 2016, and have a 50 percent of greater reduction of emissions compared to conventional fuels.

Where are those other three? There’s chat going around in Washington DC that Fulcrum is on the verge of closing it’s long-sought financing. We expect that Red Rock is still on track to close financing this year.  But it is something that the DPA Title III office needs to look into, in terms of how they have structured this approach to defense production. Imagine waiting around for, hmm, atomic weapons in 1945 because the government messed up the structure of the Manhattan Project’s financing. We know it’s tough to finance bioenergy projects, that’s why the DPA Title III Office is involved in the first place — and the cavalry is supposed to get through.

Emerald, we’re not quite so sure of. It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen anyone from that project team at an industry gathering. We’ve heard that ultimately that project will a) reach fruition or b) the dollars could be reallocated to another deserving project.

If cost-competitive, the government is a customer

The Department of Defense has indicated “that it intends to purchase biofuel blends that meet approved specifications…[importantly], cost competitiveness of the biofuel with conventional petroleum derived fuels is a primary DoD objective.”

Must be blendable

The Air Force, which is overseeing the bid, reqiires that “the total enterprise envisioned in this effort must include a capability to blend the neat biofuel product with petroleum-based equivalent fuels, if required in order to meet approved certifications and specifications, and thus furnish a ready for use, drop-in biofuel blend. Capabilities and/or facilities to store and transport the resulting product must also be an element of the project.”

Meets military specifications

The targeted fuels will be for military operational use, and as such, must be either currently approved/certified or are likely to be approved and certified MILSPEC JP-5, MILSPEC JP-8, approved for US military use ASTM D1655 / D7566 Jet A/A1 and/or MILSPEC F-76 equivalents by the time a commercial-scale IBPE would become operational.

Your Trump Card: Made in the USA (or, psst!, Canada)

As defined in the Defense Production Act of 1950 a domestic production source is: “A business concern that performs in the United States or Canada substantially all of the research and development, engineering, manufacturing, and production activities required of such business concern under a contract with the United States relating to a critical component or a critical technology item.”

The Defense Production Act backstory

Title III of the Defense Production Act provides unique authorities, under which the Government may provide appropriate incentives to create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore the productive capacities of domestic production sourcesfor critical components, critical technology items, and industrial resources essential for the execution of the national security strategy of the United States. The principal objective of all DPA Title III investments is to strengthen and expand these domestic productive capacities and to ensure Government access to critical technology items well into the future.

Something visual on the Navy and military biofuels

You may enjoy our documentary, “Sustainable Fuels on Troubled Waters,” here — which takes you all the way from the Great White Fleet to the Great Green Fleet with a big giant detour in the South China Sea situation, here.

The Dates to Know

The “Intent to Propose”: April 27, 2017.

Proposal Due Date: May 25, 2017.

Anticipated award date: December 4, 2017.

Extra, extra! Read All About it

All the DOD DPA FOA details, FYI.


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