Rentech, Inc. (NYSE AMEX: RTK) announced today a plan to build a plant in Rialto, California for the production of ultra-clean synthetic fuels and electric power from renewable waste biomass feedstocks.
The Rialto Renewable Energy Center (Rialto Project) is designed to produce approximately 600 barrels per day of pure renewable synthetic fuels and export approximately 35 megawatts of renewable electric power that is expected to qualify under California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program, which requires utilities to increase the amount of electric power they sell from qualified renewable-energy resources. The plant will be capable of providing enough electricity for approximately 30,000 homes.
RenDieselTM, the renewable synthetic diesel to be produced at the facility, meets all applicable fuels standards, is compatible with existing engines and pipelines and burns cleanly, with emissions of particulates and other regulated pollutants significantly lower than the emissions from the combustion of CARB ultra-low sulfur diesel.
The carbon footprint of the plant is designed to be near zero as the fuels and power would be produced only from renewable feedstocks. The low carbon footprint of RenDieselTM would help the transportation sector meet targets established by the Low Carbon Fuel Standard Executive Order 1-S-07 to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020.
Rentech has entered into a licensing agreement with SilvaGas Corporation for biomass gasification technology for the Rialto facility. Between 1998 and 2001, a 400 ton-per-day plant using the SilvaGas biomass gasification technology successfully operated in Burlington, VT, producing synthesis gas (syngas) from wood-based biomass in a series of operating campaigns. That plant was built in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, Battelle Columbus Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Rentech’s proprietary technology for the conditioning and clean-up of syngas will provide the next critical link in the technology chain after gasification. The conditioned syngas will be converted by the Rentech Process in a commercial scale reactor to finished, ultra-clean products such as synthetic diesel and naphtha using upgrading technologies under an alliance between Rentech and UOP, a Honeywell Company. Renewable electric power will be produced at the facility by using conventional high-efficiency gas turbine technology. The power is anticipated to be sold to local utilities under the California RPS program.
Announcing plans for the plant, D. Hunt Ramsbottom, President and CEO of Rentech, said, “The Rialto facility places Rentech at the forefront of the next generation bio-energy industry. The renewable energy conversion technology package we have secured for synthetic drop-in fuels production is ready for commercialization. Previous generation technologies for bio-fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol used valuable feedstocks that compete with food to produce fuels of varying quality. This plant will be able to transform low-value waste streams into high-value green power and pure synthetic fuels that can be used in today’s engines and distribution infrastructure.”
Having completed preliminary scoping studies, Rentech has engaged Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. to conduct the feasibility engineering phase of the project, which is expected to be completed over the next several months. This work will advance project development activities including preliminary design and plot plans and provide construction cost estimates that would then continue to be refined throughout the subsequent detailed engineering phases of the project. Based on the range of current preliminary scoping cost and yield estimates, the Rialto Project is expected to provide rates of return that would make the project commercially viable.
Rentech has an exclusive option on a site for the Rialto Project within the proposed Rialto Eco-Industrial Park, which is located adjacent to an existing City of Rialto Wastewater Treatment Plant and EnerTech Environmental Regional Bio-Solids Processing Facility. The location allows the proposed Rialto facility to take advantage of established infrastructure including access to water, wastewater disposal and zoning.
The primary feedstock for the Rialto Project will be urban woody green waste such as yard clippings, for which Rentech is currently negotiating supply agreements. The location of the project will provide local green waste haulers with a cost-effective alternative to increasingly scarce landfills for the disposal of woody green waste. The plant is designed to also use bio-solids for a portion of the feedstock which is expected to be provided under a supply agreement with EnerTech Environmental.
Construction of the Rialto facility is expected to create approximately 250 jobs with at least 55 permanent jobs during operation, based on the preliminary design work completed to date.
Doug Miller, Executive Vice President of Renewable Energy Businesses for Rentech, stated, “Our technology portfolio allows us the feedstock flexibility to produce clean synthetic fuels from biomass, or to use fossil resources in the cleanest ways, supporting the spectrum of the Obama Administration’s initiatives for domestic energy production.” Mr. Miller added, “We expect the Rialto Project to be the prototype for many waste-to-fuels projects for Rentech. These projects are being designed at smaller scale than fossil-based projects, and feedstock costs are low or negative, resulting in significant potential returns on investment.”