World Energy Secures Permits; Will Completely Convert Its Southern Calif. Refinery to Create North America’s Largest SAF Hub

April 24, 2022 |

In a sweet SAF switcheroo, huge news arrived from California-based World Energy, a carbon-net-zero solutions provider, that it secured the critical permits required to completely convert and increase output by 700 percent at its Southern California renewable fuels production facility, the world’s first and North America’s only commercial-scale Sustainable Aviation Fuel production site. World Energy is teaming up with Air Products, the world’s largest hydrogen producer, and Honeywell, an innovator in SAF technology, to build the most technologically advanced production and distribution hub ever constructed – in a $2 billion project that will yield 340-million-gallons of annual capacity and collaboration to advance green hydrogen too.

In today’s Digest, an exclusive Digest inside look at how World Energy is converting its Southern California refinery to create North America’s largest SAF hub, the players, the reactions including from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Mayor and U.S. Congress, why it’s such a huge deal, what it all means, and more.

The Transformation

Let’s start with the switch from a regular ole’ oil refinery to a leading advanced sustainable aviation fuel super duper hub. The former oil refinery site will never again refine fossil fuels. By 2050 the facility will produce fuels that will displace over 76 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 3.8 million carbon-net-zero flights from Los Angeles to New York. It will also significantly reduce the fine particulate emissions in the trucks, trains, and planes powered by World Energy’s fuels. Air Products and World Energy will collaborate on innovations to transition to green hydrogen inputs, further reducing the carbon intensity of the fuels it produces.

Ok, ok, we hear some of you saying how can this be “North America’s only commercial-scale Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production site – what about Neste? SkyNRG? Alder Fuels?” When asked about this, World Energy spokesperson told The Digest that World Energy has been producing SAF at a commercial scale since 2016 and “Neste makes SAF outside of the U.S. and SkyNRG and Alder are pre-commercial though we have supplied SkyNRG for years.”

The huge positive economic impact can’t be ignored either – The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) Institute for Applied Economics (IAE) conducted a multiregional economic impact analysis and estimates that between 2019 and 2024, World Energy’s ongoing operations and conversion will contribute $19.2 billion to the U.S. economy and generate more than 18,000 jobs. Now we are talking!

Together, along with more than 15 other leading firms, the companies are collaborating to speed up and expand the decarbonization of aviation. Global air transport leaders and those heavily reliant on aviation are now entering into long-term agreements to secure access to the plant’s current and expanding supply to make carbon-net-zero aviation real.

That means real SAF into real airplanes and real soon.

The Tech

World Energy’s SAF is a paraffinic product that is refined through a process called Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA). This produces a SAF called HEFA-SPK. The HEFA process that World Energy uses refines renewable inputs, including inedible agricultural fats and waste oils into SAF through a process that uses hydrogen (hydrogenation). According to World Energy, the process of procuring feedstocks and making and distributing their fuels is completely ethical and sustainable from start to finish to create the best product possible for the air, environment and society. You can check out their production process video here.

When will the 700% increase in output take affect?

“The Paramount facility will be online and in full production by 2025,” World Energy told The Digest over the weekend. “By IATA’s target of 2050, World Energy’s fuels will have already displaced over 76 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 3.8 million carbon-net-zero full aircraft flights from Los Angeles to New York.”

Where will the fuel go?

We know World Energy already has deals with United Airlines, but they are also “currently in discussions to finalize long-term contracts with a number of aviation companies, including airlines, cargo shippers, FBOs and others. More information will follow as these contracts are finalized,” World Energy spokesperson told The Digest over the weekend.

Reactions from the stakeholders

The Mayor: “World Energy’s transformation of its facility to producing 100 percent sustainable fuel is good for the planet and it’s good for our City,” said Paramount Mayor Vilma Cuellar Stallings. “Locally, the refinery will never again deal with petroleum products, which of course will be healthy for our residents. We welcome this change.”

The Feds: James Spaeth, Systems Development and Integration Program Manager, U.S. Department of Energy, said at the Earth Day celebration, “To see this expansion, is up to what is it 350 million gallons, it’s the first real major building of SAF production in the U.S. and perhaps the largest in the world, so the administration is just thrilled to be here to see this investment.”

The Leader: “Getting real about net-zero aviation, is going to require the mobilization of expertise and resources far beyond anything that has come before,” said Gene Gebolys, CEO, World Energy. “We are pulling together the very best companies in the world with the expertise, experience, commitment, and focus to collaborate on pushing the frontier of what can be done to decarbonize aviation today while building a platform for what needs to be done to decarbonize flight entirely by 2050.  This is an immense undertaking. But it must be done, and it requires that we move with the speed, coordination, and determination befitting the problem we are working to tackle.”

Gerbolys also told The Digest, “Between now and 2050 we will produce enough fuel, to displace enough carbon to effectuate 3.8 million net zero flights, between LA and New York. Airplanes are going to run on high density liquid fuels for the foreseeable future, and what we need to do, is get into that fuel tank with lower carbon fuels, so our approach to making net carbon zero real, is to take existing aircraft, and make them fly in a much-less carbon intensive way. It’s fitting that we’re doing this on Earth Day. Earth day is all about taking action, and today, we’re announcing a two-billion-dollar investment in attacking the carbon emissions in aviation.”

Another World Energy leader, Adam Klauber, Vice President, ESG and Sustainability, told The Digest, “This project is all about green-collar jobs – we’re going to create over 1,000 jobs with a focus on local hiring. By 2025, World Energy supply will replace over 10% of LAX’s fuel supply, and this will benefit local air quality, because we’ll be swapping the conventional fossil-fuel, that has high particulate matter, with fuel that has very low particulate matter, which is much better for breathing and the lungs of all the residents in the local community. So we’re going from 250 barrels of sustainable aviation fuel a day, all the way to 25,000 barrels of sustainable aviation fuel a day, this will make California home to the largest advanced biofuel producer for sustainable aviation fuel anywhere.”

Hydrogen Head-Honcho: “This project is another pioneering moment in Air Products’ commitment to help support the energy transition. We are already building the world’s largest green hydrogen facility with our partners in Saudi Arabia and the world’s largest blue hydrogen facility in Louisiana. Now we are teaming up with World Energy to build North America’s largest SAF facility,” said Seifi Ghasemi, Air Products’ Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are very pleased to be working with World Energy, enabling another U.S. megaproject that will provide measurable sustainability benefits and advance California’s decarbonization goals by producing a renewable fuel to meet the growing demands of the aviation industry.”

Hot Honeywell: “As one of the pioneers of the SAF market with Honeywell UOP Ecofining technology, our long-term engagement with World Energy continues to help transform the industry and support the goal of a significantly reducing CO2 emissions,” Bryan Glover, President and CEO, Honeywell UOP. “Our participation in this project will not only enable World Energy to build a technologically advanced SAF production and distribution hub, it also helps accelerate the energy transition of the aviation industry.”

A bit of background

The world’s first and North America’s only commercial-scale SAF facility was launched in Paramount, using Honeywell UOP’s Ecofining technology in 2013, with production commencing in 2016. World Energy and Honeywell have continued to collaborate and have strengthened this critical relationship with a technical development agreement to advance the next generation of carbon reduction technologies. This collaboration will further innovations integrating more efficient SAF production processes, new process pathways using new sustainable feedstocks, low-carbon hydrogen, and carbon capture technologies.

The bottom line is this is huge news for SAF and the aviation industry in seeing a big impact on aviation sustainability – perfect timing for Earth Day weekend but just the beginning of seeing more real SAF in real planes real soon.




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