Our biorefineries will convert waste materials into renewable transport fuels, through gasification and catalytic synthesis. The main chemical process is called the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process. We have developed our smaller scale microchannel FT technology over many years and we maintain a large intellectual property portfolio in the field.
Fuels produced in this way can yield net greenhouse gas reductions of 60% compared with petroleum-derived diesel and jet fuels. They also burn cleaner than petroleum-derived jet and diesel fuels, resulting in lower emissions or particulates, sulphur oxides and other pollutants, and thus improving air quality.
Unlike some other renewable fuels, FT-derived fuels are fully compatible with current engines and infrastructure, and they can be blended at high percentages with conventional fuels.
Fuels made from eligible feedstocks and synthesised using the FT process are eligible for the highest level of Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits in the US under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In the UK, Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates, RTFC, will apply to our renewable fuels. Other governments are working on similar fuel standards, expected to be implemented in the next few years.
There is an abundant supply of woody biomass in the United States from entirely sustainable sources that do not compete with food crops for land. Removal of waste materials from the forest floor reduces the risk of wild fires and complements timber production. We are energising the forestry industry that has been in decline from falling demand for newsprint and paper. We will be using those forest by-products that were once used for paper and pulp production and converting them into fuel. Infrastructure networks are already in place in many locations in the Southeastern United States.
As evidenced by, for example, the US Department of Energy’s 2016 Billion Ton report, there will be over 200m dry tonnes/year of economically-accessible non-federal timberland forestry biomass by 2030 – enough to support dozens of Velocys plants in the US. There are significant supplies of sustainable woody biomass in many diverse geographies around the world. Furthermore, Velocys’ technology route via gasification and Fischer-Tropsch enables diversification of feedstocks, including agricultural and municipal waste.
For details on the stages involved in the biomass-to-liquids process click here.
Our strategic partners include ThermoChem Recovery International (TRI) and PQ Corporation (PQ).
TRI is Velocys’ preferred supplier of gasification systems for our woody biomass plants (read more). The two companies are undertaking an integrated gasification / Fischer-Tropsch technology demonstration in Durham, North Carolina.
PQ is a leading global provider of specialty catalysts, services, materials and chemicals for the refinery, emissions control and petrochemical industries. Catalyst produced by PQ has already been used to successfully produce renewable transportation fuel and other products at ENVIA, and will continue to supply commercial quantities of Velocys’ proprietary catalyst to be used in multiple biorefineries.
ENVIA is a joint venture, of which Velocys is a member, which was set up to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from landfill gas and natural gas using gas-to-liquids. The plant is located adjacent to the East Oak landfill site.
Velocys has acquired a significant quantity of valuable commercial, technical and operational data and experience from the plant. The key milestones delivered were:
The ENVIA Energy GTL plant at Oklahoma City, USA
Velocys has been offered an attractive package of economic development incentives to locate the plant at this advantaged site (read more).
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) invited Velocys to submit a Phase II Application to obtain a loan guarantee for a commercial-scale renewable fuels plant. The loan guarantee could apply to up to $200 million of debt as part of the total installed cost of the project (read more).
The USDA loan guarantee would significantly reduce the technology risk for the debt providers. Velocys has engaged a global leading project finance bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), as the lender of record and as its financial advisor.
The company and its engineering partner are continuing to work through the process of cost and value engineering to optimise plant capital cost, operating costs, carbon intensity and the total returns from the project. In 2018 the USDA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the environmental assessment report for the project, which should ease considerably the process for obtaining additional permits (read more).
The plant is expected to convert locally-sourced woody biomass waste into enough renewable fuel to meet the demands of running around 40,000 diesel and gasoline trucks.
Velocys is advancing engineering work packages, commercial negotiations such as feedstock supply and off-take agreements, and project funding.
Altalto, a collaboration between Velocys, Shell and British Airways, is developing a commercial waste to jet fuel project in the UK. As part of the funding package, a grant of £434K has been secured from the Department of Transport under the Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition. The award of this grant, together with ongoing policy support provided by the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, will help this innovative waste-to-fuels project bring jobs and clean growth to the UK. The project is being developed with the financial and technical support of Shell and British Airways. (Read more.)
To find out more about this project in Immingham, click here.
In May 2018, Velocys received a “notice to proceed” to commence manufacturing of the Fischer-Tropsch reactors and catalyst for the Red Rock Biofuels LLC (“RRB”) biorefinery that will be located in Lakeview, Oregon, USA. RRB has commenced construction of the biorefinery, which is expected to produce 15 million gallons per year of low-carbon, renewable fuels. Velocys has licensed its core technology to the project.
RRB’s success is a significant milestone for the sector, one that further demonstrates the market’s appetite for renewable transportation fuels. The building of this plant is a validation of the commercial viability and bankability of Velocys’ technology. The licensing of Velocys’ technology to RRB is complementary to the company’s strategy to develop its own biorefineries.
Preparation of synthesis gas or “syngas”, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, by the gasification of the solid feedstock.
The Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process converts the syngas into paraffinic hydrocarbons.
Upgrading (hydrocracking, isomerisation and fractionation) produces finished, premium products.
Gasification is a process that converts carbon-containing materials into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This is achieved by reacting the material at high temperatures (>700 °C), but without combustion – using a controlled amount of oxygen and/or steam.
Conventional FT plants are only economically viable when they produce 30,000 barrels per day (bpd) or more. Velocys’ microchannel FT technology is commercially optimal at capacities of as low as 1,400 bpd (around 19 million gallons per year), making it an ideal choice for biorefineries using low density feedstock that would be uneconomic to transport over long distances to a large scale central processing facility.
Our technology combines the best aspects of conventional fixed bed and slurry bed FT reactors. The FT process is highly exothermic, or heat generating. Mass and heat transfer limitations reduce the efficiency of conventional FT reactors. In Velocys’ microchannel FT reactors, thousands of process channels with dimensions in the millimetre range and filled with catalyst are constructed immediately adjacent to water-filled coolant channels. The small-size channels dissipate heat more quickly than in conventional FT reactors. As a result, more active catalysts can be used.
Velocys’ FT technology is specifically designed to work at a small scale; but it is not a scaled down version of conventional large-scale technology. We have reinvented the reactors and catalysts, increasing the productivity per unit volume of reactor, delivering superior performance and better plant economics.
The raw FT products are upgraded (by light hydro-cracking, isomerisation and fractionation) to produce a range of possible hydrocarbon products including jet fuel, diesel, naphtha and waxes. Generally, these products are of higher quality (and command a higher price) than those derived by conventional means because they generate very low levels of emissions when combusted.