California-based sustainable fuel producer World Energy has received the necessary permits to renovate its Los Angeles-area refinery—the first in North America to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at a commercial scale starting in 2016. The $2 billion project will see the former Paramount oil refinery facility fully converted to sustainable fuel production.
That will give it a capacity of 340 million gallons a year, an increase of 700 percent from its current rate. The development project is expected to be completed and at full capacity by 2025. The company noted it would partner with Air Products, one of the world’s leading hydrogen producers, SAF technology pioneer Honeywell, and more than a dozen other companies on the project.
In a recent visit to the site by AIN, work was already underway with a swarm of construction crews and pipefitters hard at work. Glenn Clausen, the company’s director of engineering and tech services, said it intends to retain and repurpose as much of the existing equipment as possible, while fully clearing and rebuilding other areas of the 65-acre facility.
Speaking at a ribbon-cutting for the new project on Friday in honor of Earth Day, World Energy CEO Gene Gebolys explained the significance of the development with regard to decarbonization. “With our partners, we are building the most advanced refinery in the world, this is the site that will trigger not only a solution for Southern California or the U.S., but this is going to advance the state-of-the-art for addressing this massive problem around the world,” he told the audience that included local and state elected officials.
“Airplanes are going to run on high-density liquid fuels for the foreseeable future, and what we need to do is get into that fuel tank with lower-carbon fuels, so our approach to making net-carbon-zero real is to take existing aircraft, and make them fly in a much-less carbon-intensive way,” Gebolys said.
SAF is a renewable fuel derived from sustainable feedstocks—tallow, in the case of the Paramount facility, delivered by streams of rail cars. The sustainable fuel is not co-processed with petroleum in traditional oil refineries. SAF is currently approved for blending with conventional jet fuel at ratios of up to 50 percent. World Energy is among the industry leaders working to gain approval for the use of the fuel at 100 percent.
By 2050, the company estimates its fuels will displace more than 76 million tonnes of CO2—the equivalent of 3.8 million net-zero-emission airline flights from Los Angeles to New York.