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jueves, 9 de noviembre de 2017

Abengoa to start the construction of a biorefinery producing biofuels from MSW in Nevada



Despite its vulnerable financial position, Abengoa will construct the biorefinery of Fulcrum Bioenergy in Nevada (USA). As it is widely known, Abengoa filed an insolvency proceeding on November 25, 2015. The debt restructuring plan presented by the company to avoid bankruptcy included the sale of all non-core assets, such as the first generation biofuels business units. For instance, if we focus on USA, Abengoa Bioenergy sold its ethanol plant in Colwich (Kansas) to ICM in August 2016 for 3.1 M$ (more information about the current status of the facility here: ICM to build a state-of-the-art biorefinery in Colwich). The crisis also affected its second generation ethanol business. In fact, Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas sold the Hugoton cellulosic ethanol plant to Synata Bio by late 2016 for 48.5 M$. The company has been immersed in a deep reform process.

Figure 1. Biorefinery of the Sierra Biofuels Project (extracted from Fulcrum website)

However, yesterday, Abengoa announced having received Notice to Proceed on the construction of a plant that will convert municipal solid waste (MSW) into syncrude using gasification technology (see press release). Abengoa had been selected by Fulcrum to build this biorefinery in May 2015, shortly before the worsening of its crisis (see blog post: Recent biorefinery contracts to produce biofuels from MSW in the USA). Prior to this new announcement, Fulcrum BioEnergy successfully reached financial closure for the project, this being a prerequisite for the commencement of works. Abengoa will be responsible for the engineering, design, construction and commissioning of the plant, which is one of the parts of the Sierra BioFuels Project. Abengoa has spent over a year working on the preliminary engineering and procurement works in order to minimize possible risks during construction. I summarize the available details of the whole project in the following table.

Name of the project
Sierra BioFuels
Location
Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, approximately 20 miles east of Reno (Nevada, USA).
Owner
Fulcrum Bioenergy.
Phases
- Sierra Phase One: Feedstock Processing Facility (FPF).
- Sierra Phase Two: Biorefinery. There, the prepared MSW feedstock produced at the FPF will be converted into a low-carbon syncrude.
- The syncrude product will then be transported to an Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) refinery to be further processed into transportation fuel.
Feedstock and processing capacity
175,000 tons of Municipal Solid Waste.
Product and production capacity
10 million gallons of renewable transportation fuel.
Biorefinery technologies
- Gasification (Fulcrum BioEnergy has licensed the gasification system from ThermoChem Recovery International).
The feedstock rapidly heats up into a steam-reforming gasifier and almost immediately converts to syngas. Then, a venturi captures any entrained particulate and the syngas is further cooled in a scrubber.
The cleaned syngas is subsequently processed through an amine system to remove sulfur and carbon dioxide.
Finally, it enters the secondary gas clean-up section that contains compression to increase syngas to the pressure required by the next step.
- Fischer-Tropsch process to upgrade the syngas into syncrude.
The purified syngas is processed through a fixed-bed tubular reactor where it reacts with a proprietary catalyst to form three intermediate FT products: a Heavy Fraction FT Liquids (HFTL), a Medium Fraction FT Liquids (MFTL) and a Light Fraction FT Liquids (LFTL, commonly called Naphtha).
The Naphtha is recycled to the partial oxidation unit with remaining tail gas to be reformed to hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
- Hydrotreating, hydrocracking and hydroisomerization steps are used to upgrade the combined HFTL and MFTL products into jet fuel.
Investment
280 M$.
Employment
500 construction jobs, 120 permanent jobs and approximately 1,000 indirect jobs.
Timeline
- The FPF was completed in 2016 and the facility has been in operations since.
- The engineering, procurement and construction works of the biorefinery will begin immediately and are expected to take over two years.
- It is foreseen that the biorefinery begins operations in 2020.

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