Drop-in Biofuels Take Flight in Commerce City, Colorado

December 14, 2011

Photo of an outdoor refinery with large metal tanks and pipes.

An aerial view of Rentech's pilot scale biofuels plant in Commerce City, Colorado.
Credit: Rentech

Developing a robust, self-sustaining biofuels industry is key to our efforts to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to ensure a secure energy future. A crucial step in advancing a domestic biofuels industry is to establish integrated biorefineries across the country.

Biorefineries are similar to petroleum refineries in concept; however, instead of relying on petroleum or other fossil resources, biorefineries use organic matter to produce a variety of fuels, bioproducts, and chemicals, as well as heat and power.

The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy works in partnership with industry to develop, build, operate, and validate integrated biorefineries across the country at various scales (pilot, demonstration, and commercial). One such project, led by ClearFuels-Rentech, recently celebrated the completion of a pilot-scale biorefinery in Commerce City, Colorado.

Built with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the pilot-scale facility will convert wood waste, agricultural residue, and bagasse—the unused portion of sugarcane—into renewable diesel and jet fuel. ClearFuels has developed a process to thermochemically convert a variety of feedstock types—utilizing a combination of heat and chemicals to produce fuel. The "drop-in" biofuels produced at the facility will provide a direct replacement to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuel, without any need for changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines. That flexibility will allow commercial and military planes to transition to a clean, domestic fuel source that not only reduces their environmental impact but also boosts national security by providing them with a domestic alternative supply. See the Energy Blog post.