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Thu, Apr 06, 2023

Fulcrum BioEnergy Claims SAF Breakthrough

The Heady Promise of Municipal Waste

Clean-energy producer Fulcrum BioEnergy alleges it has made a breakthrough vis-à-vis the development of a so-called sustainable solution to the aviation industry’s jet-fuel needs in the dawning age of mandated decarbonization. The Pleasanton, California-based energy concern asserts it is—by dint of a first-of-its-kind, commercial-scale facility—producing low-carbon crude oil from which it will presently begin refining a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

Capitalizing upon disputed data, artfully fomented hysteria, and overreaching governmental edicts, SAF makers the likes of Finland’s Neste and the U.S.’s World Energy have, since the early 2000s, grown the biofuel industry into a $433-million multinational market. The global aviation sector accounts for less than two-percent of worldwide CO2 emissions, yet remains among those essential industries most tirelessly disparaged by climate activists, that small but noisy cult of moral relativists compelled to irrationality by a dangerous amalgam of credulity, vehement emotion, and self-loathing—the ones running the E.U.

Fulcrum BioEnergy president and CEO Eric Pryor stated: "The problems we're solving only continue to become more difficult problems. The need and the interest is only growing."

Launched in 2007 for purpose of identifying a different feedstock for biofuel production, Fulcrum BioEnergy focused on municipal solid waste. Citing the relatively low cost and inexhaustible supply of garbage, Fulcrum asserts its utilization of such stands to at once address the problems of overfull landfills, greenhouse gasses, and dependence on fossil fuels.

Mr. Pryor somewhat cryptically added: "On the environmental side, it's a win-win; what we've discovered over time—and tried to optimize—is there's real economic value associated with those enormous environmental attributes as well." Among Fulcrum’s first employees, Pryor joined the company in 2007, serving in the capacity of CFO until 2021, when he ascended to the high station of CEO.

Fulcrum’s SAF production process calls for landfill waste to be processed into small confetti-like feedstock which is subsequently converted into syngas—a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen molecules. Syngas subsequently undergoes the Fischer-Tropsch process, a  collection of chemical reactions occurring in the presence of catalysts, typically at temperatures 302–572 °F and pressures of several tens of atmospheres, the end result of which is the production of liquid hydrocarbons—such as SAF.

By virtue of 21st Century engineering advances, multiple third-party reviews, and integration of already successful commercial equipment, Fulcrum has devised what Mr. Pryor called a "low, methodical approach to prove out operations, both at a demonstration level and in the commercial level.” Pryor states his company has benefited from "patient investors," the lot of which have, in addition to grants and loans, raised upwards of $500-million.

In May 2022, operations began in Reno, Nevada, at the plant of Fulcrum subsidiary Sierra BioFuels. In December, the Reno plant produced a novel low-carbon synthetic crude oil that can be further refined into SAF. Mr. Pryor referred to the instance as a "watershed moment.”

Pending an imminent equipment upgrade, Fulcrum will imminently have the capacity to convert the aforementioned synthetic crude oil into SAF; so states Fulcrum vice-president of administration Rick Barraza.
Fulcrum’s engineering team estimates its Sierra plant has the capacity to produce 63-gallons of SAF per every ton of feedstock. The company is currently working to identify more than ten future plant locations, the combined annual output of which could equal 400-million gallons of SAF.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Willie Walsh set forth that cost is the primary obstacle precluding the widespread adoption of SAF. At present, the price of one gallon of SAF is—depending upon geographical location—three-to-five-times higher than the equivalent amount of conventional jet-fuel. Airlines currently utilizing SAF in their day-to-day flight operations are doing so primarily in response to regulatory pressures being applied with increasing bluster by the E.U. and Biden administration.

Aside from Mr. Barraza’s stating his company’s product will be "very competitively priced with petroleum based fuels," Fulcrum declined to disclose the projected cost of its SAF.

Across the clean energy sector, corporations, LLCs, and research institutions are seeking alternate raw materials from which to produce biofuels. Santa Cruz, California-based energy startup Prometheus Fuels is researching means by which to synthesize SAF from atmospheric CO2. Tucson, Arizona’s Dimensional Energy, the website of which exhaustively explains the company’s social-justice and equity policies but offers little hard data pertaining to its technologies or methods, is allegedly attempting—by alchemy, perhaps—to produce SAF from water and CO2.

"No one solution is going to be the panacea that fixes everything," Mr. Pryor opined. "But we're going to be a major contributor to solving those problems. The volume of waste around the country produced each year is going to give us a brand-new source of low carbon fuel."

FMI: www.fulcrum-bioenergy.com

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