SAF: We Should, We Could, and We’ll Need the Wood: the Alder Fuels, Enviva partnership story

September 14, 2022 |

We’ll keep warning the industries of the bioeconomy until we get the message through so clearly that no one is left in any doubt:

The grand journey, the quest for sustainable fuels, chemicals and materials, will utterly fail if the industry does not work harder to address its Achilles Heel, which is biomass itself. Not the quality of it, or even the quantity of it, but the quantity at a price that is affordable and scales to a level where the bioeconomy is seen as a vital partner in decarbonization rather than a niche player.

The bioeconomy is getting sidelined and not because of technology but because of apprehension by leaders when they compare the magnitude of industrial transformation needed to reach climate goals, and the valuable biomass that can be scoured without uncorking a price war between those who have always been using it, and those who need it now. Many organizations get it, and are working the problem hard. Not enough of them,. And they are not given the all-out support they should be.

One company worth highlighting, and I mean let’s shine the kleig lights on this one, are the technology pioneers at Alder Fuels. Yes, like many others, they are going after SAF and renewable diesel at scale. But they see the problem of biomass and are doing something about it — namely, laboring to unlock the value of wood residues and untapped sustainable woodstocks as a platform for SAF. 

Elsewhere we’ve cried “methane, methane, methane” and a few are believers, and we think that in a way Alder is one them, even though they’re not grabbing dairy waste and not making methane. But their technology stope the methanogen metabolic cycle at a moment when it has produced volatile fatty acids, or VFAs, from the kind of wetted biomass that we used to make biomethane — instead, they convert the VFA’s directly to a liquid fuel usable as SAF. Brilliant stuff. 

Alder had news this week and given the climate fix we’re in, I wish it had been brought down from Mt. Sinai etched on a stone tablet. An iPad tablet will have to do.

Enviva and Alder signed a contract for the long-term, large-scale supply of woody biomass from Enviva, which sources low-value fiber, such as forest byproducts like tree tops, limbs, and commercial thinnings. The agreement would make Enviva an exclusive supplier of up to 750,000 metric tons per year of sustainably sourced woody biomass to Alder’s first Alder Greencrude production facility, soon to be under construction in the southeastern United States. The supply is expected to commence in 2024.

Sustainable? It’s Triple-Checked

All woody biomass feedstock supplied by Enviva to Alder Fuels will continue to adhere to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive’s requirements, as well as Enviva’s industry-leading Responsible Sourcing Policy. In addition, Enviva and Alder Fuels have committed to collaborating to gain sustainability certification under the internationally renowned Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials standard. These guidelines and conditions are further supported by Enviva’s industry-leading Track & Trace® program that provides detailed, verifiable, and independently audited data about the sustainability of Enviva’s sourcing activities and the journey its feedstocks take from the forest tract to the production plant to customers around the globe.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“I made SAF and saw this it is good, you ought to try it.,” – God.

Well, actually, just kidding, but I’d wish the Lord would say it. As the inventor of biomass for one, not to mention in His role as sole-source project developer of the atmosphere. We’ll settle for some real commentary from the actual principals in the deal, for now. But I’ll keep a look-out for the high sign from the Almighty.

Bryan Sherbacow, Alder Fuels’ President & CEO, commented, “Decarbonization of our entire economy is driving massive demand for the next generation of sustainably sourced renewable fuels. The size of the market for our product is equal to the petroleum market it replaces. With AGC technology, the challenge of meeting this demand is no longer industry willpower or commercial interest; it is having ready access to diverse, highly accredited, and sustainably produced sources of biomass. Today’s announcement brings us one step closer towards achieving that aim, while benefiting the communities in which we operate.” 

“Abundant sustainable biomass conversion to energy-dense, drop-in liquid fuels is essential to accelerating the current global transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Thomas Meth, President of Enviva. “This joint effort between Enviva and Alder Fuels enables sourcing of sustainable wood fiber and industry-leading technology to deliver the feedstock flexibility and commercialization of SAF needed to achieve jet fuel decarbonization at scale.”

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