Alternative Fuels: 2019 Year in Review

Runeel Daliah, Analyst

In this blog, we take a look back and provide a timeline of the most important developments that occurred in the alternative fuels space last year.

2019 was an eventful year in the Alternative Fuels space. Hydrotreatment for renewable diesel is becoming firmly established as the first commercially viable technology for advanced biofuels and is witnessing an explosion in capacity expansion worldwide. Cellulosic ethanol continues to struggle, with Raizen now the only survivor of the first wave of cellulosic ethanol projects that came online this decade. Meanwhile, pyrolysis technology is enjoying renewed spotlight through BTG-BTL's multiple project announcements in the last quarter of the 2019. 

JANUARY - MARCH 2019

  • Emerging Fuels Tech (EFT) announced it will now provide double the Fischer-Tropsch capacity for the Red Rock Biofuels project that is currently under construction. The facility has a nameplate capacity of 15 million gallons per year, but it remains unclear what capacity EFT will be responsible for, as it shares the project with competitor Velocys

  • Shell inked an off-take agreement with NEXT Renewable Fuels for renewable diesel. NEXT Renewable Fuels aims to build and launch a 600 million gallon per year (MGY) renewable facility in Oregon, U.S., in 2021. The company licensed Honeywell UOP's Ecofining hydrotreatment technology in 2018 for the upcoming project.

  • GranBio announced plans to restart cellulosic ethanol production at its 21 MGY facility in Brazil. The company was supposed to produce 8 MGY of cellulosic ethanol in 2019 and 13 MGY in 2020, although no updates have been released since. 

  • Clariant formed a partnership with ExxonMobil and REG for cellulosic biodiesel. Clariant will provide its Sunliquid biomass pretreatment technology to produce cellulosic sugars from biomass, which will then be fermented to biodiesel using REG's patented technology.

  • Fulcrum Bioenergy plans to build a second MSW-to-fuel facility in Indiana, U.S. The new facility will have a capacity of 33 MGY biojet fuel, which is triple the capacity of its 10 MGY facility in Oregon, U.S., that is due to launch next year. 

april - june 2019

  • Novozymes launched a new enzyme and yeast product for the ethanol industry. The first product is Fortiva, an alpha-amylase that boosts ethanol yield by 1%. The second product is Innova Force, a new yeast technology that Novozymes claims eliminates the need for yeast food and reduces urea production, resulting in savings of up to $400,000 for 100+ MGY ethanol plants.
     
  • SkyNRG announced a 30 MGY biojet fuel project in the Netherlands with KLM in Delfzijl, Netherlands, in 2022. The project will use Haldor Topsoe's hydrotreating technology to convert waste oil feedstock into hydroprocessed ester and fatty acid (HEFA) jet fuel, for which KLM has signed a 10-year off-take agreement for 75,000 metric tons (23 MGY) of biojet fuel per year.
     
  • NEXT Renewables Fuels inked a 550 MGY feedstock supply agreement for renewable diesel with BP for its planned 600 MGY renewable diesel facility in Oregon, U.S; feedstock includes both waste oil and virgin seed oil.
     
  • United Airlines renewed its 10 MGY off-take agreement for biojet fuel from World Energy. The company previously signed a three-year off-take agreement for 15 MGY of biojet fuel.

  • BTG-BTL announced its second 5.3 MGY pyrolysis facility, to be launched in Finland in 2020. The facility will use sawdust as a feedstock.

     

JULY - SEPTEMBER 2019

  • Praj Industries will build its first sugarcane bagasse cellulosic ethanol facility in the U.S. This allows Praj to carve out a niche market specific to sugarcane bagasse, though significantly smaller in quantity, as U.S. players continue to focus on corn stover.

  • Neste broke ground on its $1.6 billion investment in Singapore refinery expansion to 2.3 million MT. While Neste's renewable diesel continues to be an increasing focus for the company, and nearly all the Singapore production ends up in California, Neste is exploring other renewable products, including applications in marine, and expanding its renewable products portfolio.

  • Total began renewable diesel production at a La Mede refinery in France. The refinery has a capacity to produce 500,000 MT of renewable diesel but has been plagued with delays due to opposition to its use of palm oil feedstock.
     
  • BTG-BTL announced its third pyrolysis facility to be launched in Sweden in 2021 – this time for road transportation fuel.  BTG-BTL will be working with Setra and Preem to pyrolyze waste wood feedstock from Setra into biocrude, which Preem will then co-refine with crude oil in its existing refineries to produce diesel with a bio-based component. The facility will have a capacity of approximately 6 MGY.

  • St1 will deploy Honeywell UOP's Ecofining technology for renewable diesel production at its Gothenburg refinery. Previously signing an engineering agreeent with Haldor Topsoe for its renewable diesel production technology in 2017, it appears that St1 will opt for Honeywell UOP's Ecofining technology instead. The capacity of this upgrade will also increase to 4,000 barrels per day, producing both renewable diesel and biojet fuel.
     
  • Diamond Green Diesel is planning for a second 400 MGY renewable diesel facility in less than a year. This follows Darling Ingredients' approval of the expansion of Diamond Green Diesel's (DGD's) Louisiana facility from 275 MGY to 675 MGY. 

 

OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2019

  • KLM signed an agreement with Neste for biojet fuel for flights out of Amsterdam. This agreement is not exclusive, as KLM continues to purchase biojet fuel from U.S.-based World Energy (formerly AltAir), which currently supplies to United Airlines – the agreement will only last until the SkyNRG project in Delfzijl comes online in 2022.

  • Bunge formed a joint venture with BP for ethanol in Brazil. This JV will position both companies favorably as the Brazilian market expands into corn-based ethanol and welcomes industry stalwart Praj Industries.

  • Velocys will integrate CO2 capture in its planned biomass-to-liquid (BTL) facility in the U.S. The carbon capture project is a joint collaboration with Occidental Petroleum's venture arm, which will presumably use the CO2 for enhanced oil recovery applications. Capturing and sequestrating the CO2 will lower the carbon intensity of Velocys' fuel. 

  • BTG-BTL will launch its fourth pyrolysis facility in the Netherlands – this time for marine fuel. The new project will be in collaboration with GoodFuels Marine. The company will launch a pilot-scale unit with a production capacity of approximately 1,000 tons of pyrolysis oil (264 gallons), which will then be upgraded to marine diesel oil.

  • POET-DSM shut down its cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S. The company places the blame squarely on the EPA's recent management of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which led to a shrinking of the cellulosic biofuel market in the U.S. and a drop in D3 RIN prices.

For more information about key developments that took place in the energy industry in 2019, be sure to check out our Lux Energy Team's Year in Review series (available to Lux members only.)




FURTHER READING:

- Blog: Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up Feburary 14, 2020

- Blog: A Decade in Review: Innovation Lessons From Lux's Top Emerging Tech Research

- Executive Summary: 20 for 20 Annual Report (Free Download)

- Analyst Insight: Alternative Fuels 2019 Year in Review (Members Only)

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