Agilyx, Virgin Group, REG, Louisiana Green Fuels, Circular SynTech, and others advance on waste-to-fuels

February 20, 2022 |

Just in the last few days, it’s been all about low carbon, lower carbon, net-zero carbon – and all of it from waste. Virgin Group and Agilyx’s strategic partnership to produce lower carbon fuel from plastic waste. REG’s state-of-the-art pretreatment facility to refine some of the lowest carbon intensity, hardest to convert waste fats and oils for bio-based diesel production. Louisiana Green Fuels’ conversion of forestry waste feedstock into renewable diesel. Circular SynTech’s new waste-to-renewable-chemicals production facility in Missouri.

In today’s Digest, carbon talk is hot this week and waste to fuels even hotter, so let’s talk about carbon and how converting wastes to fuels will get us to where we need to be, these key projects, and more.

Virgin Group and Agilyx

Let’s start with the news that Virgin Group and chemical conversion technology company Agilyx are forming a strategic partnership in order to research and develop lower-carbon fuel facilities to help address plastic pollution and the global transition to net-zero.

They aim to reuse plastic waste that otherwise would be un-recycled to produce synthetic crude oil that will then be refined into a lower carbon fuel. Virgin Group wants to provide lower carbon fuel solutions to the global-market and expects Virgin Atlantic and other Virgin companies to be early adopters, as part of the Group’s transitional plans of achieving net zero by 2050.

Virgin Group intends to work with Agilyx – whom it has been an investor in for many years – on the development of the production facilities based on its unique conversion technology.  Cyclyx, an innovative feedstock company that is majority owned by Agilyx, will source the plastic waste used for the fuel in the first facility.

The first waste-to-fuel location is planned to be in the US, with an aspiration to roll-out similar plants in other countries, including the UK.

Agilyx’s proprietary technology is able to break down plastic waste through a pyrolysis process.  Pyrolysis converts mixed waste plastic into a synthetic crude oil which, once further refined, can be used as a lower carbon fuel.

Josh Bayliss, CEO of the Virgin Group, said, “Innovation and entrepreneurship are important tools to address the climate crisis.  Virgin and other companies have an important role to play in meeting those challenges, which is exactly why we are forming this strategic partnership with Agilyx.  The creation of lower carbon fuel is an important step in the journey towards net zero.  We are very pleased to be adding this project to the range of investments we continue to make aimed at addressing these issues.”

Tim Stedman, CEO of Agilyx, said, “We are pleased to be partnering with the Virgin Group to enable a technology solution for lower carbon fuels as it transitions on its journey to net zero.  This platform is unique as it will be used for lower carbon fuels and has the future opportunity for the production of circular plastics.  We view plastic waste as a valuable above ground resource that is not widely tapped into.  Through our technology, we aim to unlock the value of plastic waste that otherwise may have been destined for landfill or incineration.”

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said, “In this decade, Sustainable Aviation Fuel is the key solution for decarbonisation of the aviation sector but we have a long way to go.  Clearing the skies for tomorrow requires radical collaboration across innovators, producers, investors and airlines.  We are delighted that Virgin Group and Agilyx are leading the charge to pilot new pathways in lower carbon fuels and we look forward to working closely with them to achieve our 10% SAF target by 2030.”

Renewable Energy Group

News also came in from Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group, Inc. which will install a state-of-the-art pretreatment facility in Germany, enabling the company to refine some of the lowest carbon intensity, hardest to convert waste fats and oils for bio-based diesel production. The project is located on the North Sea harbor of Emden, Germany at the border to The Netherlands.

This project will enhance REG Emden and REG Oeding’s ability to produce renewable fuel from a wider variety of feedstocks, including ‘Generation 3’ advanced feedstocks as defined under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) II. This strategic upgrade will enable the company to continue to expand the company’s strong global sourcing and trading position, produce more deeply decarbonized fuel and better serve European customers seeking to accelerate their transition to cleaner energy.

“This strategic investment expands our already wide selection of feedstock options that we run at Emden and Oeding today, and qualifies us to better serve the growing demand for low carbon fuel options in Europe,” said REG President & CEO, CJ Warner. “Upgrading our German production sites with our proprietary technology will position us well for the future, build on our supply assurance and empower us to further reduce the carbon intensity of the renewable fuels we produce.”

The RED II policy incentivizes waste and advanced feedstocks as Europe continues to emphasize decarbonization efforts. REG currently produces approximately 50 million gallons, or 167kMT per year of biodiesel at its two German biorefineries, delivering carbon reduction impact in Europe, notably with on-road transportation and maritime customers.

“REG will continue to build on our track record of delivering high quality fuels and being a trusted partner to waste producers seeking reliable offtake,” said REG VP and Managing Director, International Business, Raymond Richie. “As customers and suppliers demand more sustainable business practices, we are well positioned to play a key role in the circular supply chain.”

REG acquired the bio-based diesel plants in Germany in 2017 and has since opened a global trading office in Amsterdam for sourcing feedstocks and selling co-products and fuels. REG has all required permits for construction and the project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2023 with start-up by year-end. REG has selected BDI- BioEnergy International GmbH as the engineering, procurement and construction partner.

“With our innovative RetroFit programme, we are taking the two biodiesel plants to a completely new technical and economic level. The result is unique raw material flexibility, maximum plant availability and a measurably valuable contribution to the circular economy and CO2 reduction,” said Markus Dielacher, CEO BDI-BioEnergy International GmbH.

Check out “Another 250M gallons per year: The Digest’s 2022 Multi-Slide Guide to REG” here to take a look at how Renewable Energy Group’s biobased diesel compares to petroleum-diesel, their work with GoodFuels in marine shipping and Ruan in trucking, their planned expansions and additional capacity for renewable diesel, where they see sales of biodiesel and renewable diesel blends going, and more.

Louisiana Green Fuels

Last week, news came from the state of Louisiana that Governor John Bel Edwards awarded Strategic Biofuel’s Louisiana Green Fuels project a $250 million bond allocation for its carbon-negative renewable diesel fuel project. The bonds will form an integral part of the debt financing for construction costs of the project and be sold into the private market at final investment decision in early 2023, when construction begins.

As the first renewable diesel project in North America to achieve “negative” carbon emissions, LGF will affordably and sustainably convert forestry waste feedstock into cleaner-burning renewable diesel producing approximately 34 million gallons of renewable fuel per year, once in operation. The company’s location in Northern Louisiana combines the right geology, an abundance of forestry waste from managed, sustainable forests with a favorable legislative and regulatory environment in Louisiana. Together these factors de-risk the project, while serving as a blueprint for the energy industry working toward net zero carbon. The successful sequestration test well program completed in 2021 confirmed the plant’s ability to achieve deep carbon negativity.

“We are going beyond net zero by taking things a revolutionary step further and achieving a deeply negative carbon footprint, right here in the State of Louisiana,” said Strategic Biofuels CEO Dr. Paul Schubert. “The continued support from the State and Governor Edwards reflects the confidence they have in our project and team. Our LGF project’s momentum is exciting, and we look forward to bringing together industry and agriculture in Northern Louisiana to create a better tomorrow filled with economic growth and opportunities.”

“We are excited about the rapid advancement towards construction of Strategic Biofuel’s Louisiana Green Fuels project in Caldwell Parish,” said Gov. Edwards. “The project’s negative carbon footprint fuel production continues to keep Louisiana at the forefront of innovation in the renewable fuel industry. Furthermore, it illustrates what is practical and achievable on the path to meet our Climate Initiatives Task Force goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Circular SynTech

Also last week came news that a novel technology developed at Mississippi State University will be used in a new industrial facility that is turning solid waste into liquid fuels.

Circular SynTech broke ground Friday on its new waste-to-renewable-chemicals production facility in New Madrid, Missouri. The company uses a patented process developed by researchers in MSU’s Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering.

Mark White, director emeritus of the school, worked with MSU’s Office of Technology Management to license the technology to Circular SynTech. In addition to White, the waste conversion method was co-invented by former post-doctoral associate Shetian Liu, 2012 MSU chemical engineering doctoral graduate Samantha A. Ranaweera, and the late William P. Henry, a former faculty member in the Department of Chemistry.

The new industry in Southeast Missouri, located along the Mississippi River, will collect solid waste from major population centers and use White’s method to turn synthetic gases from the waste into liquid fuels, providing a cleaner energy source at an industrial scale.

“This groundbreaking marks another milestone in getting a technology with tremendous societal benefit to the marketplace,” said MSU Office of Technology Management Director Jeremy Clay. “Dr. White has worked for years to develop, patent and ultimately license this technology for commercial use. It is an exciting accomplishment for everyone involved in this research, Circular SynTech, and the many people that will benefit from this new facility.”

The technology developed by White uses cobalt and/or molybdenum as a catalyst for converting synthetic gases produced by waste such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid fuels.

“Strong incentives now exist for replacing some current fuel technologies used in the energy industries with fuels derived from renewable resources such as wood and certain waste streams,” White said. “We are happy to play a role in solving one problem among the many problems facing our culture in the 21st century.”

Circular SynTech plans to eventually expand the Missouri facility and develop similar sites across the country.

Other recent projects

Earlier last week we covered two other waste to fuels projects that are worth highlighting again – the first commercial advanced renewable fuels project of USA BioEnergy, their subsidiary Texas Renewable Fuels will convert 1 million green tons of wood waste into 34 million gallons per year of renewable transportation fuel. Future expansion will double the plant’s production capacity to 68M gallons annually.

And let’s not forget last week’s news that waste-to-fuel start up WasteFuel launched WasteFuel Agriculture which will turn farm waste into low-carbon fuels including renewable natural gas and bio-methanol that can be used in land and marine transport with significantly lower emissions footprints than fossil fuels. The new effort offers farmers a way of handling their waste streams and reducing emissions.

Another interesting waste to fuel project as reported in The Digest in December 2021, Mote announced its first facility to convert wood waste into hydrogen fuel while capturing, utilizing, and sequestering CO2 emissions from the process. Mote expects to produce approximately seven million kilograms of carbon-negative hydrogen and remove 150,000 metric tons of CO2 from the air annually. Mote expects to start hydrogen production starting as soon as 2024. Mote says its facility would be the first to convert biomass to hydrogen while capturing the carbon emissions.

Bottom Line

With all this talk of low carbon or zero carbon, it’s easy to get excited about the future. And when you add in waste feedstocks being converted into valuable products and fuels, optimism is almost guaranteed. So stay tuned as we wouldn’t be surprised to hear more news along these lines in 2022.

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