Production of Pipeline Grade Renewable Natural Gas and Value-Added Chemicals from Forest Biomass Residue

Produce high quality renewable natural gas and value-added chemicals from forest biomass

West Biofuels, LLC

Recipient

Petaluma, CA

Recipient Location

3rd

Senate District

4th

Assembly District

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$1,716,966

Amount Spent

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Active

Project Status

Project Update

The project team completed the initial research and development of gas storage and RNG gas separation/upgrading technology, and is in the process of commissioning the gas storage, compression, and boosting modules to operate the synthesis unit.

The Issue

The low cost of fossil natural gas and high levels of risk associated with new technologies challenge the commercial production of renewable gas (RG) from forest residues. In the past, several large-scale cellulosic biomass-to-biofuels projects have failed, increasing the rigor needed to demonstrate technical viability to stakeholders interested in financing projects. Also, limited opportunities have been presented that create multiple value-added products, which could help reduce the financial risk of a new project. The current project will demonstrate at a pilot-scale, a complete system to convert forest fuels from high hazard zone regions to RG and value-added mixed alcohol by-products.

Project Innovation

Westbiofuel will demonstrate, at a pilot-scale, a complete system to convert forest fuels from HHZ regions to RG and value-added mixed alcohol by-products. This demonstration will provide important information to validate technical viability of the proposed solution. The proposed technology will generate multiple high-value mixed alcohol products that can be upgraded for use as transportation fuels or in the chemical markets, reducing financial risk. The success of the project will significantly advance the technology towards commercialization, addressing the two main components of project finance: technical risk and financial risk.

Project Benefits

This project will contribute to future ratepayer benefits, including increased natural gas reliability, lower energy costs, job creation, air emission reductions, and improved forest management and watershed protection.

Lower Costs

Affordability

The project seeks to validate a process that can generate multiple products to reduce the cost of RG and ultimately the cost of renewable gas to the consumer. One of the project objectives is to achieve a wholesale cost of RG of $12/MMBtu or lower.

Economic Development

Economic Development

A commercial facility would almost certainly be located in an IOU territory to connect to the IOU pipeline. Such a project would bring both long-term operations and short-term construction jobs to IOU ratepayers.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

The Sierra Nevada region supplies more than 60% of the state’s fresh water supply. The health of the forested landscape is critical to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires that damage watersheds, soil retention and stability, and water hold capacity. The proposed project is expected to produce RG with a carbon intensity of 75% below that of fossil natural gas. Additionally, the project is expected to support the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants through the reduction of open-pile burning.

Greater Reliability

Reliability

The proposed technology will demonstrate a promising new technology that will allow for the in-state production of RG. Diversification of natural gas and RG will help support the reliability and resiliency of the gas system. Additionally, numerous critical natural gas distribution and transmission lines run through the forested landscape. Projects that support sustainable forest management will reduce the risk of infrastructure damage from wildfire.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Matthew Summers

Subrecipients

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National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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The Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the San Diego campus

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Sierra Business Council Small Business Development Center

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Placer County Air Pollution Control District

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The Grant Farm, Inc

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Colorado School of Mines

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UC Davis_ Sub of UC San Diego

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Match Partners

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National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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West Biofuels, LLC

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Contact the Team

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