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Fulcrum BioEnergy announces major investment and strategic alliance with United Airlines

US-based renewable fuel developer Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. and United Airlines, Inc., have announced that United Airlines has invested US$30 million in Fulcrum and will have the option to directly participate in Fulcrum’s waste-to-jet fuel plants across North America. United will also have the opportunity to purchase 90 million US gallons (≈ 340 million litres) per annum of Fulcrum’s cost-competitive, sustainable jet fuel under long-term offtake agreements, subject to availability.

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United Airlines is the second major air carrier to invest in Fulcrum BioEnergy and sign a long-term off-take agreement for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) derived from municipal solid waste (MSW) by Fulcrum (graphic courtesy United Airlines).

According to a statement, the announcement represents the biggest strategic partnership in the biofuels and aviation industries and Fulcrum’s second direct investment by an airline.

This is a major advancement of Fulcrum’s program to provide large volumes of commercial and military spec fuel at competitive pricing to the industry. This strategic partnership with United accelerates our whole program, said E. James Macias, Fulcrum’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

In August 2014, Fulcrum announced a strategic partnership with Cathay Pacific Airways, Fulcrum’s first with an airline. This partnership included an equity investment and a 10-year fuel offtake agreement. Fulcrum was awarded grants by the US Department of Defense (DoD) and a loan guarantee from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the expectation that Fulcrum will be a future supplier of renewable transportation fuels to the military.

The DoD and the USDA have been accelerating the development of clean energy technologies that will diversify fuel supplies away from oil to reduce costs and ensure a secure source of fuel for the military and country.

The combined alliances with United, Cathay Pacific, the DoD and the USDA provide Fulcrum with a clear, long-term pathway for delivering low-carbon transportation fuel to the airline industry, the US Navy, and the US Air Force.

In May 2015, Fulcrum announced a biofuels industry first with the execution of a US$200 million fixed-price engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with Abengoa for the construction of the Sierra BioFuels Plant in Nevada (NV).

Abengoa, a premier, international construction company, will be responsible for the construction of the Sierra biorefinery and will provide Fulcrum with guarantees on the cost, schedule, start-up, and performance of the Sierra plant. This EPC approach will be the standard for every project in Fulcrum’s growth program.

Sierra BioFuels Plant entering the construction phase

Fulcrum converts the carbon and hydrogen energy embedded in MSW into a clean syncrude that can be upgraded to either jet or diesel drop-in fuels. This clean fuel meets all the commercial and military specifications for ground, air, and sea transportation fuels.

With MSW as its feedstock, Fulcrum says its fuel will be very cost competitive with petroleum fuel in addition to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 80 percent compared to fossil fuel.

The Sierra BioFuels Plant is Fulcrum’s first commercial-scale plant. Located approximately 20 miles east of Reno, NV, the Sierra plant will convert more than 180 000 tons of prepared MSW feedstock into approximately 12 million gallons (≈ 45 million litres) per annum of renewable syncrude that will be further refined into low-carbon transportation fuel.

Permitting, front-end engineering and site preparation activities for the Sierra plant have been completed and construction activities will begin this fall with production beginning in 2017. According to Fulcrum, the Sierra plant’s modular design can be replicated and scaled to efficiently build larger facilities that will produce between 30 and 60 million gallons (≈ 114 and 228 million litres) of jet or diesel fuel annually.

With long-term MSW feedstock contracts with Waste Management, North America’s leading provider of comprehensive waste management services, and with Waste Connections, the nation’s third-largest waste services provider, and fuel offtake agreements with United and Cathay Pacific, Fulcrum is accelerating development activities for additional, larger scale projects across North America that can produce more than 300 million gallons (≈1.14 billion litres) of low-carbon, renewable transportation fuels annually.

We have created a business that will compete directly with fossil fuel on the basis of cost and sustainability. Since our inception, Fulcrum has developed a robust operating platform and business plan that brings in large industry leaders to create value throughout the waste to fuels process. We have combined the best team in biofuels with two of the largest waste services companies, two major airlines, the US Air Force, the US Navy, the USDA, the best technology providers and a premier contractor to build out our program. I’m proud of what our team has accomplished and am very excited about the future, ended Macias.

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