Renewable Diesel & SAF: Project Roundup Report

Biodiesel Magazine’s annual production map showed 34 renewable diesel/SAF plants under development, construction or operating in the U.S., as of September. The following includes updates regarding some of these projects.
By Anna Simet | December 13, 2022

This fall, Biodiesel Magazine chatted with Mindi Farber-DeAnda, team lead of the U.S. EIA’s Petroleum & Natural Gas Modeling regarding biodiesel, renewable diesel and SAF capacity growth. At the time, she said EIA forecast that U.S. renewable diesel capacity would outpace biodiesel capacity in October—and that proved to be true. “Our annual production capacity numbers for biodiesel and renewable diesel facilities are as of the beginning of the year, containing data for 2021, and for biodiesel we reported 72 facilities with about 2.2 billion gallons per year (BGY) of capacity,” Farber-DeAnda said. As for renewable diesel, there were 11 operating plants—a number that has been on a steady uptick since Jan. 1—with an annual capacity of 1.75 BGY, according to Farber-DeAnda. While that data was in the EIA’s 2021 annual report not released until August of this year—its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook contains more current data, with information for August showing capacity for renewable diesel (and associated fuels including renewable heating oil, renewable jet fuel, renewable naphtha, renewable gasoline and other biofuels) having reached 2.134 billion gallons—an increase of over 50% in just one year. Biodiesel capacity was down slightly, by 347 MMgy, when compared to the 2.431 billion gallons of capacity in place as of August 2021.

So, what’s attributing to a slight dip in biodiesel capacity? Farber-DeAnda shared what hasn’t a major factor, and that’s conversions from biodiesel to renewable diesel. “These are very different facilities … renewable diesel is much more complex … we are seeing [conversions] happen more at refineries. Some biodiesel facilities are just closing over time. We are seeing greater biodiesel exports, but just not enough to warrant more production.”

The EIA’s 2021 annual report saw a substantial drop in petroleum refining capacity. “We also saw 440,000 barrels per day (bpd) of capacity converted to renewable diesel, but that actually happened in 2020—it just showed up in our records on Jan. 1, 2021,” she said. “In 2021, we were expecting to see a greater number of conversions, but there seems to have been some delays from COVID-19’s expanded economic impacts.”

In the next report, which will contain data from 2022, Farber-DeAnda said EIA expects up to 660,000 bpd additional conversions to renewable diesel.

Biodiesel Magazine’s annual production map showed 34 renewable diesel/SAF plants under development, construction or operating in the U.S., as of September. The following includes updates regarding some of these projects, in various stages of development.

Project name: Next Renewable Fuels
Location: Port Westward, Oregon
Project type: Greenfield
Fuel/s: SAF, renewable diesel,
renewable propane  
Capacity: 750 MMgy
Status: Under Development
Summary: Next Renewable Fuels received air permit approval from the Oregon  Department of Environmental Quality in late August. The $1.5 billion facility will use feedstocks including animal tallow, seed oil and waste grease. In the most recent project news, in mid-November, United Airlines announced an investment of up to $37.5 million in the company, so long as certain milestone targets are met. Shortly thereafter, Next announced it would become publicly traded via a special purpose acquisition by Industrial Tech Acquisitions II Inc., a transaction expected to close next year, and would be named NXTCLEAN Fuels Inc. Biodiesel Magazine confirmed with a company spokesman that it is currently targeting 2026 for fuel production.

Project name: Heartwell Renewables
Location: Hastings, Nebraska
Project type: Greenfield
Fuel/s: Renewable diesel
Capacity: 80 MMgy
Status: Under Construction
Summary: Cargill and The Loves Family of Companies announced their partnership in April 2020. The joint venture broke ground on its renewable diesel refinery in early November, which will use vegetable oils and Cargill-suppled beef tallow as feedstocks. Musket, the commodity trading and logistics arm of Love’s, will transport and market the produced fuel. Worley was awarded a contract to provide detailed and field engineering services for the facility. Fuel production is slated for 2024.

Project name: Montana Renewables
Project type: Refinery conversion
Location: Great Falls, Montana
Fuel/s: Renewable diesel, SAF, naphtha
Capacity: 230 MMgy
Status: Operational
[Planned expansion]
Summary: Calumet Specialty Products Partners L.P. is considering plans to ramp up SAF production at its Montana Renewables biorefinery, which began commissioning this fall and is currently focused on renewable diesel production. A renewable hydrogen plant and feedstock pretreatment facility are under development and scheduled to begin commissioning this winter. According to CEO Todd Borgmann during a Nov. 14 earnings call, the company is currently focused on taking time to understand the nuances of operating the renewable diesel unit at the Great Falls facility, particularly in the colder-than-normal temperatures the region had been experiencing. A planned expansion in 2024 would boost nameplate capacity to 20,000 bpd, with production estimated at 12,000 bpd of renewable diesel, 4 million bpd of SAF, and 1,500 bpd of renewable naphtha. Borgmann said the planned expansion will make the company the largest SAF producer in North America. Engineering is also underway to support a project that could optimize the facility for SAF production, boosting SAF capacity to as high as 15,000 bpd, or 230 MMgy. Borgmann also discussed feedstock procurement for the plant—the facility is initially expected to take in soybean oil, animal fats and corn oil as feedstocks, but is also likely to process other feedstocks in the future, including canola oil and camelina. Borgmann indicated the U.S. EPA’s approval of canola oil fuel pathways for renewable diesel, jet fuel, naphtha and other associated fuels will benefit Montana Renewables, as canola is already widely cultivated in Montana.

Project name: CastleRock Green
Location: Shelton, Washington
Project type: Greenfield
Fuel/s: Unspecified/low-carbon  
Capacity: Unspecified
Status: Under Development
Summary: CastleRock Green Energy is a renewable energy and infrastructure fund based in New York, and recently announced development of “a pair of biofuel production facilities” in the Shelton, Washington, area. The company does not appear to have a project website, but a Nov. 7 press release credited the Inflation Reduction Act as making the projects possible. The facility will require a $400 million investment, according to CastleRock, and the company indicated that it plans to deploy Ensyn Corp.’s RTP technology, which has been installed at eight production facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

Project name: CVR Energy
Location: Wynnewood, Oklahoma
Project type: Refinery conversion
Fuel/s: Renewable diesel
Capacity: 100 MMgy
Status: Operational
Summary: CVR Energy’s Wynnewood refinery—converted from a hydrocracking unit—began commissioning and startup in early May, after an initial project delay due to spiking feedstock prices (soybean oil in particular). The plant reached capacity at the beginning of October, according to CVR Energy David Lamp. During an early Nov. earnings call, Lamp said construction of a feedstock pretreatment unit is progressing, and is expected to be placed in service during the third quarter of next year, allowing the facility to take in a wider variety of feedstocks. Lamp said the renewable diesel conversion has been relatively straightforward and easy from an operating standpoint, though logistics have been more challenging. He said one of the company’s bigger challenges has been getting the railroad in tune with its needs to deliver soybean oil and corn oil on a timely basis, as well as remove product on a timely basis. The company is continuing to work through those challenges, he indicated. CVR Energy is in the process of studying the feasibility of the conversion of its Coffeyville, Kansas, refinery to renewable diesel, and SAF and has selected Honeywell to conduct a feasibility study.

Project name: Martinez Renewables
Location: Martinez, California
Project type: Refinery conversion
Fuel/s: Renewable diesel, naphtha,
Capacity: 730 MMgy
Status: Under Construction
Summary: Marathon Petroleum Corp. on Nov. 1 confirmed that phase 1 of the renewable diesel conversion project at the company’s Martinez, California, refinery is expected to be mechanically complete by the end of 2022. The Martinez project is being developed under a 50/50 joint venture with Neste, which was finalized in September. Each Neste and Marathon will invest $1 billion in the project. Renewable diesel production at the facility is expected to begin in early 2023, with feedstock pretreatment capabilities expected to come online during the second half of the year. By the end of 2023, the project is expected to have the capacity to produce 730 MMgy. Marathon completed the conversion of its Dickinson, North Dakota, refinery to a 184 MMgy renewable diesel and naphtha plant that became operational in 2021.

Project name: Alder Green Crude
Location: U.S. Southeast, undisclosed
Project type: Greenfield
Fuel/s: Greencrude (for conversion
into SAF/biochemicals)
Capacity: Undisclosed
Status: Under Development
Summary: Backed by and partnered with companies including United Airlines, Honeywell, Avfuel Corp., Enviva, Boeing and the U.S. DOE, Alder Fuels’ first site, in an unspecified Southeast U.S. location, is slated to start full-scale commercial production in 2024.  Technology and feedstock testing at pilot- and demonstration-scale plants was completed in the Netherlands. Darren Fuller, senior vice president of sales and business development, recently told Biodiesel Magazine that the company is finalizing the facility’s location. “It will be a greenfield facility, so there are no existing technology or utilities that we’re leveraging there … we’re hoping to make an announcement in this quarter, and that still may happen. It’s a big deal for us. We’re partnering with Enviva and BTW Bioliquids, our fast pyrolysis technology provider … We’re really excited about it and moving very quickly to making it a reality.” United Airlines has committed to purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from the company.  
Project name: Vertex Energy
Location: Mobile, Alabama
Project type: Refinery conversion
Fuel/s: Renewable diesel
Capacity: 150 MMgy
Status: Under Construction
Summary: Vertex Energy is nearing completion of a $90 million-plus capital project to modify the Mobile refinery's existing hydrocracking unit to produce renewable diesel fuel on a standalone basis. Upon completion, the refinery is expected to commence production of approximately 8,000 to 10,000 bpd of renewable diesel, with production volumes anticipated to subsequently ramp up to approximately 14,000 bpd. In statements released this fall, the company said that mechanical completion of the project has been proactively extended from its initial target of year-end 2022 to the first quarter of 2023, risk considerations due to COVID-19-induced product delays and global supply chain shortages in several previously unimpacted markets, including common pipes, valves and fittings. “Limited visibility into a solution for these challenges, combined with the notable financial benefits associated with reduced downtime and extending current operations, have allowed the company to respond by extending the project timeline to ensure all necessary parts and materials are ready and on-site prior to shutting the hydrocracker unit down,” Vertex stated.

Project name: DG Fuels-Louisiana
Location: Undisclosed, Louisiana
Project type: Greenfield
Fuel/s: SAF
Capacity: 120 MMgy
Status: Proposed
Summary: Slated for production in 2026, DG Fuels announced in mid-November that this plant has sold all of its initial production capacity after inking a final offtake agreement with an undisclosed buyer. According to the company, The $2.5 billion SAF plant has already secured offtake agreements with four other buyers, including Delta Airlines, which has agreed to buy 55 million gallons per year for a seven-year period beginning in 2027, and Air France-KLM, which agreed to buy 21 million gallons per year for a 10-year period beginning in 2026. DG Fuels' SAF production process uses cellulosic waste products as feedstocks. HydrogenPro will supply its green hydrogen technology with a capacity of at least 839 MW for DG Fuels' initial production plan. On Nov. 14, DG Fuels announced it has signed key land agreement for the development of its second proposed SAF facility, a 175 MMgy plant  planned for development in Maine.

Project name: World Energy-Galena Park
Location: Galena Park, Texas
Project type: Refinery conversion
Fuel/s: SAF
Capacity: 250 MMgy
Status: Under Construction
Summary: In mid-August, World Energy announced the launch of advanced engineering plans to convert its existing assets in Houston to an SAF hub that will enable the company to produce another 250 MMgy of SAF by 2025. World Energy operates the world's first SAF plant in Los Angeles, where it is in the midst of a $2 billion expansion project to boost capacity to 375 MMgy. The company owns four operating biodiesel plants in Ontario, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Georgia.

Project name: REG Geismar LLC
Location: Geismar, Louisiana
Project type: Expansion
Fuel/s: Renewable diesel,
propane, naphtha
Capacity: 90/250 MMgy
Status: Under Construction
Summary: REG’s Geismar plant is undergoing a $950 million expansion from 90 MMgy to approximately 250 MMgy. The project broke ground in October 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2024. This summer, the U.S. EPA approved a Renewable Fuel Standard fuel pathway filed by REG that will allow the facility to generate D4 biomass-based diesel renewable identification numbers (RINs) and D5 RINs for certain biofuels produced using carinata oil feedstock. REG was officially acquired by Chevron in June.

Project name: Gevo NZ1
Location: Lake Preston, South Dakota
Project type: Greenfield
Fuel/s: SAF
Capacity: 55 MMgy
Status: Under Construction
Summary: Following a recent groundbreaking ceremony in Lake Preston, South Dakota, Gevo reported that its Net-Zero 1, or NZ1, project is on schedule. Initial volumes of SAF are expected to be delivered in 2025. NZ1 will produce approximately 55 MMgy of SAF, or 62 MMgy of total hydrocarbon volumes, which would satisfy part of the approximate 375 MMgy of financeable SAF and hydrocarbon supply agreements that are currently in place, according to Gevo. “The transition to an ethanol-to-SAF design from Gevo’s original isobutanol-to-SAF and isooctane design continues to yield improved output expectations as pre-project planning has been completed through phase 2 of front-end loading work,” the company said. Gevo indicated it is making progress on securing future SAF production locations beyond NZ1.

Author: Anna Simet
Contact: [email protected]

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