Carbon-negative renewable fuels complex proceeds in Louisiana

Feb. 6, 2023
Ongoing projections of reduced demand for finished petroleum products amid the global energy transition, alongside business strategies aimed at ensuring operational competitiveness, have continued to support investment in renewable fuels production.

Ongoing projections of reduced demand for finished petroleum products amid the global energy transition, alongside business strategies aimed at ensuring long-term operational competitiveness, have continued to support accelerated investment in renewable fuels production by US operators.

While major renewables projects along the US West Coast and Midcontinent are well under way, Grön Fuels LLC is developing a grassroots multibillion-dollar, multiphased renewable fuels complex in Louisiana that, once online, will become the world’s largest supplier of carbon-negative and ultralow-sulfur transportation fuels.

In addition to presenting an overview of current project plans, this article details the latest contract awards for the renewables complex and outlines current technologies selected for the site.

Grassroots development

By yearend 2022, Grön Fuels—a subsidiary of Houston-based Fidelis New Energy LLC —continued to advance development of its proposed $9.2-billion carbon negative renewable fuel complex to be built at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, on the west bank of the Mississippi River, near Port Allen, La.

First announced in late 2020 and approved for a minor source air permit by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in April 2021, Phase 1 of the multiphased Grön Fuels GigaSystem involves construction of a grassroots plant equipped to process traditional renewable feedstocks (e.g., animal fats, soybean and canola oils, distillers corn oil, tallow, used cooking oil) and emerging feedstocks (e.g., algae oil and biocrude, among others) into 65,000 b/d of carbon-negative sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and low-carbon renewable diesel for distribution to US and Canadian markets as well as export abroad.

To achieve production of carbon-negative fuel production, the complex will employ carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) with carbon-negative power (CNP), including installation of a carbon-negative bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) plant to be operated by Fidelis subsidiary Capio Sequestration LLC.

The BECCS plant will capture CO2 produced from biogenic sources that recently captured atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis for reuse in production of bio-based fuels and products. Grön Fuels GigaSystem’s combined use of CCS and BCCS, therefore, will have the effect of reversing climate change rather than merely slowing it, as BCCS reduces current CO2 levels in the atmosphere by removing the compound.

In addition to a renewable natural gas plant equipped to produce renewable naphtha from by-products of the on-site renewables feedstock pretreating unit, the proposed complex will use its renewable co-products to produce more than 1,000 Mw of renewable bio-hydrogen, or green hydrogen, to power hydrotreating processes at the site. To fully optimize the site’s efficiency and circularity, the complex also will reuse steam generated by waste-heat capture for emissions-free power generation, according to the operator.

Target capacity, timeline

Slated for phased construction over a period of about 10 years, Grön Fuels GigaSystem, if fully completed, will reach a renewable fuels production capacity of 1 billion gal/year, the operator said.

At a capital cost of more than $1.25 billion, the first 65,000-b/d phase of the complex remains on schedule to begin commercial production in 2025.

Contract awards

Despite intermittent setbacks caused by the global pandemic, Grön Fuels has continued to award contracts for work on the carbon-negative production complex.

In November 2022, the operator let a contract to Yokogawa Electric Corp. subsidiary Yokogawa Corp. of America’s KBC to deliver automation, information solutions, and services to support people at all levels of the Grön Fuels GigaSystem, from operations and maintenance personnel through to senior management. While details regarding its specific scope of delivery were not revealed, Yokogawa said technologies provided will include extensive digital twins to enable optimization and ensure safety, productivity, and operational performance at the site.

Also in November, Grön Fuels secured ARC Advisory Group to serve as the project’s strategic advisor, a role under which it will provide consulting services and guidance in the strategy and selection of enterprise software and automation technology for the main production plant. As part of the agreement, ARC said it also will propose, select, and document an overall technology framework to guide design, construction, commissioning, startup, operation, and maintenance of the complex. Scope of delivery covers core systems and differentiating technologies recommended for a modern digitalized production plant, including best practices for business operations and workforce requirements.

ARC confirmed it has already provided an assessment of potential vendors for the project’s plant automation systems through to enterprise financial systems, as well as recommendations for pairing of technology, products, and services.

The late-2022 contracts follow Grön Fuels’ July 2022 award of a contract to Koch Engineered Solutions (KES) affiliate Optimized Process Designs LLC (OPD) for delivery of engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) of Grön Fuels GigaSystem’s primary renewable fuels processing plant and associated supporting infrastructure, KES said.

Technology selection

While details regarding the complete suite of technologies to be implemented at the complex have yet to be publicly revealed, Grön Fuels has confirmed via its website that Alfa Laval will supply the project its renewable feedstock pretreatment system, which includes separators, heat exchangers, pumps, and agitators, designed to reduce contaminants and impurities—as well as adjust free fatty acids—from a wide range of sustainable feed, including recycled animal fat and UCOs, to prepare for conversion into renewable fuels. Alfa Laval also will supply equipment for water treatment at the complex, Grön Fuels said.

In November 2020, Grön Fuels selected Topsøe AS to supply primary technologies for Grön Fuels GigaSystem’s renewable fuels and green hydrogen production.

As part of its delivery, Topsøe has licensed its proprietary HydroFlex hydrotreating and H2bridge hydrogen technologies, which will enable the operator to capture about 1 million tpy of bio-CO2 for sequestration in deep saline aquifers below the project site, the service provider said.

Given Grön Fuels GigaSystem’s proximity to about 600 miles of hydrogen pipelines, Topsøe said the operator will offer excess bio-hydrogen not used in its production process for sale to third parties seeking to lower CO2 emissions of power production, industrial processing, or transportation activities.

The service provider also confirmed it worked with Grön Fuels on the complex’s design to enable production of renewable arctic diesel with an additive-free -40° cloud point.