How Is CAAFI Engaging with Emerging Companies, and What Early-Stage Pathways Should SAJF Stakeholders Be Aware of?
(Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative) … Feedstocks:
The companies are pursuing various feedstock categories, including algae, cellulosics, lipids, sugars, oilseeds, tall oil residue, and sugars. Most of the companies were only pursuing one feedstock category, with only a couple continuing to explore multiple feedstocks or planning to migrate from food-based to non-food based feedstocks.
As with feedstocks, the conversion technologies that the companies were pursuing varied and included HTL, IH2, ATJ, pyrolysis, thermochemical, thermal deoxygenation, gasification, catalytic, HEFA, and HFP-HEFA.
Scale and Products:
Almost all of the companies we spoke with are at a pre-commercial scale. There are two exceptions. One is producing renewable diesel commercially overseas and another has built commercial-scale turnkey plants for their clients. The companies in pilot stages are producing, or are planning to produce, the following primary products: green crude oil, ethanol, BTX, jet fuel, biochar, gasoline, wood vinegar, high octane gasoline blendstocks, and biodiesel. Co-products included biofertilizer, naphthalenes, indanes, and high molecular weight compounds.
Half of the companies we spoke with are producing or have produced jet fuel.
Many of the companies saw a potential future with jet fuel, but currently see aviation fuels as a secondary priority to producing road transportation fuels, due primarily to inequities produced by policy incentives.
The inclusion of jet fuel in LCFS is generally viewed as very positive in helping to make the business case for jet fuel.
Key Identified Challenges:
Key identified challenges can be classified under three categories: investment, economics, and the certification/qualification (CQ) process. In terms of investment challenges, companies are looking to connect with interested financial partners. We were also told that end-users are not demanding greater SAJF production due to the challenges of producing SAJF cost-competitively with petroleum-derived jet fuel (though the inclusion in LCFS may alter the equation). ASTM and the CQ process were consistently identified as a matter of concern and uncertainty: two key points that persisted included a general interest in receiving guidance on the process and concern over the feasibility of making the quantity of fuel necessary to go through the process.
Though many companies claimed to have no current R&D and/or technical challenges, the following themes did emerge from the discussions: ensuring product quality and limiting variability; including maximizing yields, siting for scaling-up to commercial production, and developing second generation sugars in feedstock supply; and optimizing the conversion process (mixing biomass and catalysts at large scale).
Conclusions to Date:
The companies with emerging SAJF pathways which we spoke with are not actively looking for assistance with R&D. The companies expressed the desire for assistance with financing/investment and ASTM approval. While many companies expressed interest in producing jet fuel, the economic viability of jet fuel production and the challenging cost and timeline for ASTM approval were seen as barriers to entry to producing AJF. READ MORE