Red Rock’s first commercial scale renewable jet fuel refinery edges closer as it secures venture capital funding
Southwest Airlines has agreed to purchase 3 million gallons of renewable jet fuel from Red Rock Biofuels
Thu 16 Apr 2015 – Construction could start as early as this summer of Red Rock Biofuel’s first commercial scale refinery in Lakeview, Oregon to produce renewable jet fuels from woody biomass sourced from forests and sawmills. This follows the announcement of a partnership with venture capital firm Flagship Ventures that includes an undisclosed investment in Red Rock. The cost of the refinery is put at $200 million, $70 million of which will come from an award last year by the US Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy, and production of jet fuel, diesel and naphtha is expected to start around 18 months after construction begins. Last September, Southwest Airlines announced an offtake agreement with Red Rock to purchase three million gallons of the renewable jet fuel for use at the low-cost carrier’s San Francisco Bay Area operations.
The refinery will take residues from nearby forests and using Red Rock’s proprietary process will be converted into syngas, cleaned and sent to a Fischer-Tropsch unit for onward conversion to a high-grade syncrude. Around 15 million gallons of renewable, liquid transportation fuel are expected to be produced annually from 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass. The fuel would be hauled to customers in Northern California or Pacific Northwest markets.
Flagship Ventures will provide financial and strategic expertise to Red Rock as well as helping secure additional funding and customers. Brian Baynes, a Flagship partner and now on the board of Red Rock, said he expects to see an increasing demand for renewable fuels.
“With its innovative technology and strong team, Red Rock has created a market-leading position in the woody biomass conversion sector,” he said. “Their product saves money for customers and offers a stable alternative to the volatile crude oil market, while reducing carbon emissions – a growing priority for companies.”
Terry Kulesa, co-founder and CEO of Red Rock said the company was formed as a result of devastating wildfires in the Western US and the rising demand for drop-in, cost-effective renewable jet and diesel fuels. “By removing and repurposing the excess biomass that fuels destructive fires, we see great potential in the ‘waste to value’ sector, creating cleaner fuels, healthier forests and delivering sustainable biofuels,” he said.
New jobs are promised in the construction and running of the refinery and in local forests, although some local residents are concerned that the facility will add to the town’s already poor air pollution problem, with levels of particulate matter caused by wood stoves exceeding federal limits. Several environmental groups have petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency to have Lakeview designated as a ‘non-attainment area’ under the Clean Air Act. If successful, Red Rock could be required to reduce or offset its air emissions.
The company says it plans to expand its team during the year and is looking at other possible locations in the US where there is a substantial timber industry presence, and is considering countries such as Canada, Australia and Brazil.