Fulcrum’s Sierra BioFuels plant produces 1st volumes of low-carbon crude oil from landfill waste
Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc. announced Dec. 20 that it has successfully produced a low-carbon synthetic crude oil using landfill waste as a feedstock at its 11-million-gallon-per-year Sierra BioFuels Plant near Reno, Nevada, what the company says is the world’s first commercial-scale landfill waste-to-fuels plant.
This synthetic crude oil was shipped to a Marathon Petroleum refinery where it was converted into clean transportation fuels.
“This accomplishment is a watershed moment for Fulcrum and opens the door for our plans to transform landfill waste around the world into a low-carbon transportation fuel in a way that will have a profound environmental impact,” said Eric Pryor, Fulcrum’s president and CEO. “After more than a decade of dedication and perseverance, successfully creating a low-carbon fuel entirely from landfill waste validates the strength of our process and our partners’ unwavering belief in and support for our business model. As we continue to work to address global environmental challenges and advance our development program, we aim to replicate our success at Sierra with cost-efficient net-zero carbon plants nationally and ultimately around the globe.”
Fulcrum has entered into strategic partnerships with major airlines and other offtake partners to purchase its renewable fuel.
By producing a synthetic crude-oil product, which can then be further refined into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), Fulcrum has demonstrated its process and is preparing to supply its strategic partners with SAF that it expects will be net-zero carbon when compared on a lifecycle basis to traditional petroleum-based jet fuel.
“This is a significant accomplishment for Fulcrum and the aviation industry,” said Andrew Chang, managing director of United Airlines Ventures. “United has led with bold action to fight climate change, including committing to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets, and investing in more sustainable fuel production than any other airline globally. We look forward to advancing our collaboration with Fulcrum to increase the supply of sustainable aviation fuel.”
With the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. government has made clear its newfound support for the domestic growth of SAF as a clean alternative to standard fuel.
“We applaud the passage of the IRA, which will foster industry growth and innovation to supply SAF,” Pryor added. “We’re thrilled to contribute to the White House’s SAF Grand Challenge of producing at least 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030.”
Fulcrum has spent more than a decade and significant capital developing an innovative process for transforming a true waste product into a valuable low-carbon transportation fuel for the aviation industry. Fulcrum expects to utilize a standardized, scalable, low-cost approach for larger future projects replicating the successful process at Sierra, which is backed by patents and capitalizes on the intellectual property developed by the company in its engineering and start-up operations of this first-of-its-kind plant.
“Fulcrum has successfully demonstrated a groundbreaking technological achievement that will have far-reaching implications for clean energy around the globe,” said Dongsoo Kang, head of SK Innovation’s portfolio division. “We are proud to not only be an investor but also a strategic partner as we explore bringing Fulcrum’s patented and proprietary waste-to-fuel process to the Asia-Pacific region together.”
Grace Cheung, group head of sustainability and corporate responsibility at Cathay Pacific Airways, added, “This is a tremendous and exciting accomplishment for Fulcrum and is also very important for Cathay to reach its commitment for using 10 percent sustainable aviation fuel by 2030. As Fulcrum’s first airline investor and fuel offtake partner, we look forward to using SAF produced by Fulcrum very soon. We are confident that this milestone will help open up more SAF production capacity in Asia and around the world.”
The company has identified and is making progress on its planned growth program, which Fulcrum expects will have the capacity to produce approximately 400 million gallons of net-zero carbon transportation fuel annually.
The company’s development program includes the Centerpoint BioFuels Plant in Gary, Indiana, the Trinity Fuels Plant in the Texas Gulf Coast region and the NorthPoint project in the U.K.