Biofuels made by Fort Collins firm to power Southwest, military jets

Source: By Howard Pankratz, The Denver Post • Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2014

Biofuels made by Fort Collins-based Red Rock Biofuels will power Southwest Airlines jets and military aircraft beginning in 2016.

Southwest on Wednesday said it has agreed to purchase 3 million gallons of low-carbon jet fuel per year from Red Rock.

The fuel will be manufactured at a to-be-built plant in Lakeview, Ore., Red Rock founder Terry Kulesa said in an interview.

The $200 million plant will convert woody biomass — bark, sawdust, tree branches and needles from a local sawmill — into jet, diesel and naptha fuels, Kulesa said. He said about half the production will go to the military, the other half to Southwest.

Kulesa said the jet fuel bound for Southwest will be shipped by rail to Stockton, Calif., and blended with traditional jet fuel. It then will be trucked to nearby airports in Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose.

Kulesa said Southwest will pay the same price for the biofuel as it would for fossil fuel.

Kulesa said Red Rock hopes to construct similar plants near Fort Collins and near Alamosa and perhaps in Canada and Australia.

On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Navy, Energy and Agriculture announced a $210 million investment in the construction of three biorefineries, including Red Rock’s plant in Lakeview. The other plants are Emerald Biofuels on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Fulcrum BioEnergy in northern Nevada.

The federal agencies said the Lakeview plant is expected to convert approximately 140,000 tons of woody biomass into at least 12 million gallons of renewable jet, diesel and naptha fuel each year.

Kulesa said the federal grant allocated $70 million to Red Rock.

In announcing the federal investment, the government said the biofuel plants will help diversify the domestic fuel supply base, “make America’s warfighters less beholden to volatile oil markets and strengthen national security.”