World Energy to upgrade sustainable fuel refinery

California-based sustainable fuel producer World Energy has received permits to retrofit its Los Angeles-area refinery, the first in North America to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on a commercial scale starting in 2016. The $2 billion project will see the former Paramount oil refinery fully converted to sustainable fuel production.

This will give it a capacity of 340 million gallons per year, a 700% increase from its current rate. The development project is expected to be complete and at full capacity by 2025. The company said it would partner with Air Products, one of the world’s leading hydrogen producers, SAF technology pioneer Honeywell and to more than a dozen other companies participating in the project.

During a recent visit to the site by AIN, work was already underway with a bevy of construction crews and pipe fitters hard at work. Glenn Clausen, director of engineering and technology services for the company, said it intends to retain and reuse as much existing equipment as possible, while cleaning up and completely rebuilding other areas of the 65-acre facility.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new project on Friday in honor of Earth Day, World Energy CEO Gene Gebolys explained the importance of development when it comes to decarbonization. “With our partners, we are building the most advanced refinery in the world, it is the site that will not only trigger a solution for Southern California or the United States, but it will advance the state of the art to address this huge problem in the world,” he told the audience which included local and state elected officials.

“Planes are going to be running on high density liquid fuels for the foreseeable future, and what we need to do is get into that fuel tank with low carbon fuels, so our approach to making zero real net carbon is to take the existing planes, and fly them in a much less carbon-intensive way,” said Gebolys.

SAF is a renewable fuel derived from sustainable feedstocks – tallow, in the case of the Paramount facility, delivered by railcar trains. Sustainable fuel is not co-processed with petroleum in traditional petroleum refineries. SAF is currently approved for blending with conventional jet fuel at rates up to 50%. World Energy is among the industry leaders striving for approval for 100% fuel use.

By 2050, the company estimates that its fuels will displace more than 76 million tons of CO2, or the equivalent of 3.8 million net-zero emissions air flights from Los Angeles to New York.

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