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New Energy Freedom refinery to produce carbon-negative fuel from America’s ag wastes
Lancaster, PA July 14, 2021—New Energy Blue announced its planned construction in Iowa of a biomass refinery designed to produce renewable carbon-negative automotive fuel, which replaces gasoline.
“Our Iowa project can keep one million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year–like taking 200,000 cars off the road,” says Thomas Corle, CEO. “Future refineries are expected to be twice the size of the first.”
The company is developing New Energy Freedom biomass refinery on a 155-acre site near Mason City, Iowa. 275,000 tons of crop residue (cornstalks and wheat straw) will be locally sourced, then converted into 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and 95 tons of lignin, a solid biofuel and natural binder. Half the greenhouse-gas reduction comes from replacing petroleum products, the other half from sequestering soil carbons through best farming practices.
“Our cellulosic fuel can exceed California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard policy and its rigorous air quality requirements,” says Corle. “Other states continue to adopt similar policies, which drive the growing global demand for carbon-negative transportation fuels.”
Strong demand is also expected for the refinery’s lignin. Produced by a clean process, it can replace oil-derived bitumen as the binder in asphalt. “A greener way to pave roads and shingle roofs,” Corle says.
Besides being one of America’s first carbon-negative refineries, New Energy Freedom represents the first large-scale use of Inbicon bioconversion technology outside of Denmark. New Energy Blue’s team is a spin-off of the technology’s development. The company purchased exclusive rights to license and build-out refineries from Ørsted in 2019. Freedom’s CapEx is about $200 million, about the same amount invested in Inbicon’s 15-year development. Ørsted built and operated a demonstration refinery for five years, supplying 2G ethanol to Danish petrol stations.
New Energy Blue has completed process engineering around several different feedstocks and is now completing a site-specific design for construction next year in Iowa. The company plans to build four more biomass refineries over the next 6 years.
Albury Fleitas, company president, is leading the financing of the project. “We’ve gained equity and debt interests to build-out multiple refineries from private and institutional sources,” Fleitas states. “What’s more, the USDA greenlighted the project under phase-one section 9003 for a construction loan guarantee.”
The refinery breaks down plant fiber into lignin and two sugars, which are currently fermented into fuel-ethanol. The technical flexibility of the process allows project owners to capitalize on dozens of downstream opportunities as they arise. Utilizing non-GMO feedstocks like grain straws is being evaluated for future sites. Because the hemicellulose can be processed into a sought-after sugar substitute, xylitol, snack-food makers who use it can market their products as a healthier choice. The two sugars can also be turned into polyethylene and replace a popular plastic now made from oil.
Besides saving carbons and cutting pollution, the refineries will create new green jobs, give growers additional income, and pump millions of dollars through local economies.
2 million tons of CO2 saved every year by converting ag waste to auto fuel
Lancaster, PA September 29, 2020—An independent assessor recently verified that each New Energy Blue biomass refinery can be expected to keep 2,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of the atmosphere every year.
According to Thomas Corle, CEO of New Energy Blue, the refineries will turn grain-harvest leftovers, such as wheat straw and corn stalks, into a carbon-neutral auto fuel selling at a premium in California and other states with tough clean air and low carbon standards.
Half of the CO2 saved comes from replacing gasoline, the other half is sequestered by modern farming practices.
“To put our carbon figures into perspective,” says Corle, “Tesla, a trillion dollar company, has sold about a million battery-operated vehicles to date. But our market is the other 270,000,000 cars on American highways, starting with the 14,500,000 now in California.
“Because we’re planning five refineries in five years, the CO2 impact is equivalent to taking nearly 2,000,000 cars off the road—every year. Yet the debt and equity deployed will be just $2 billion—a tiny sliver compared to investment in Tesla.”
“The ESG investors I speak with,” says Albury Fleitas, the company’s president, “are alarmed by how the Covid crisis and climate chaos are pushing fossil energy giants off the cliff. They’re eager to catch the carbon wave transforming American energy—not just pushing the whole burden onto the electric grid, but riding second-generation biofuels like ours.”
The company’s first five Midwestern sites are surrounded by abundant harvest residues to feed the refineries. Farmers’ corn stalks and grain straws will be converted into nearly 180,000,000 gallons of 2G ethanol annually; operating energy and process water come from the biomass itself. All sites have rail access to North America’s low-carbon fuel markets.
New Energy Blue was forged by a decade of work and $250 million, invested by Ørsted, now the Danish world leader in wind energy, to prove Inbicon biomass conversion technology at commercial scale. “Our team transformed Inbicon technology into a profitable, sustainable business model ready to build-out today,” says Corle.
Fleitas adds, “Investor interest has heated up following the disastrous California fires and the surge in tropical storms hitting the Gulf and Midwestern states.”
Immediate demand for carbon-neutral fuel already outstrips the supply New Energy Blue can develop itself; bundled licensing is being discussed with several other energy developers.
“U.S. and Canadian farmers have enough corn stalks and grains straws left over every year to supply 600 of our refineries,” says Corle. “Those 600 can replace 24 billion gallons of gasoline and over 1.2 billion tons of CO2 annually. Compare that to the total emitted by America’s coal-fired power stations, which the EIA pegged at 1.24 billion in 2018.”
Besides saving carbons, the refineries will create new green jobs, give growers additional income from each year’s food harvest, and push $200 million through local economies every year.
New Energy Blue buys Inbicon’s low-carbon fuel technology
Boston, MA/August 12, 2019—NewEnergyBlue acquired exclusive rights to Inbicon bio-conversion technology throughout the Americas and will first employ it to turn North Dakota wheat straw into a high-value, carbon-neutral automotive fuel. The technology license was purchased from Ørsted, a Danish green-energy company. Ørsted developed the technology over 15 years at a cost exceeding $200 million, proving efficacy and commercial operation at its refinery in Kalundborg for nearly five of those years.
“A number of our executives worked with Ørsted developing this technology,” says Thomas Corle, CEO of NewEnergyBlue. “Our engineers continued to optimize the process of the refineries we’re designing today.”
The company intends to build a series of biomass refineries across grain belts and sugar-growing regions to process agricultural residues like wheat straw, cornstalks, and sugar bagasse, converting them into a high-octane advanced ethanol that’s more than 100% below the carbon baseline of grain ethanol–more than 140% below gasoline.
“Our plan is to feed fuel markets in states like California and countries who likewise battle carbon pollution with policies that incentivize low-carbon biofuels made from agricultural residues,” Corle says.
But counting carbon isn’t the only way of keeping score. “Using Inbicon technology at the core of our refinery gives a clean process–no acid or high ammonia used–unlike other technologies at commercial scale.” NewEnergyBlue’s refinery prefers high-pressure steam followed by an enzyme bath to break down the biomass fibers into sugars and lignin that are valuable for making liquid and solid biofuels.
“Instead of using fresh water,” Corle adds, “our enclosed-loop design recycles the water from the biomass—about 15% moisture—which can produce a surplus of clean water for uses like irrigation.”
“July was Earth’s hottest month on record. As climate change and expanding populations increase competition for water, our refineries can save millions of gallons annually producing renewable fuel.”
“Given current trade policies and the strained margins on grain ethanol, we’re also attractive to first-generation producers for co-locating our biomass refinery. First-gen producers can license low-carbon solutions through us, including a shared CHP unit fueled by our lignin that further reduces their production’s carbon footprint to access low-carbon markets they can’t now.”
Albury “Bo” Fleitas, NewEnergyBlue’s new president, sees “investor interest picking up—in part due to the tight margins on wind and solar projects, in the main due to projected double-digit returns on equity from our refineries thanks to our sustainable business model and a huge market appetite.” Fleitas has invested in the company, which he joined after managing financing and investor relations for an alternative energy development fund.
More information available at www.newenergyblue.com