New Energy Blue Forms Biochemical Subsidiary to Provide Bio-Based Ethylene to Decarbonize Dow's Plastic Production

March 20, 2024
The New Energy Freedom biomass refinery in Mason City, Iowa, will start converting local corn stalks into 16-20 million gallons a year of HD cellulosic ethanol and 120,000 tons of clean HD lignin

New Energy Blue, a developer of low-carbon biofuel and biochemicals from crop residues, is advancing its Decarbonizing America agenda by forming New Energy Chemicals. 

In phase one, the new subsidiary will produce American-sourced and American-made bio-based ethylene to enable Dow's production of low-carbon plastics used in everyday life. In phase two, the subsidiary will expand operations at its Port Lavaca, Texas, facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). 

By late 2025, the New Energy Freedom biomass refinery in Mason City, Iowa, will start converting local corn stalks into 16-20 million gallons a year of highly decarbonized (HD) cellulosic ethanol and 120,000 tons of clean HD lignin, which has high value as a fossil substitute in markets like paving American roads and decarbonizing steel production.

Some of the ethanol will be used for California and Oregon auto fuel markets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 100% per gallon of gasoline displaced. New Energy Chemicals will also convert HD lignin into bio-based ethylene in Texas and transport it through pipelines to Dow's US Gulf Coast operations, which will produce renewable plastics. 

Dow's use of bio-based feedstocks from New Energy Blue is expected to be certified by ISCC Plus, an international sustainability certification program focusing on the traceability of raw materials within the supply chain. Dow aims to mix agriculture-based ethylene into its existing manufacturing process, and ISCC Plus's chain of custody certification will enable Dow customers to account for bio-based materials in their supply chains.

“Strategic and institutional investors are actively involved in our Freedom and Chemicals projects and upcoming expansions,” said Albury Fleitas, President of New Energy Blue. “With engineering design completed and major permits secured, we've reached the final investment decision (FID) stage and by partnering with an international bank and securing USDA loan guarantees for both project sites, we anticipate ground-breaking this year."

New Energy Blue aims to expand its biomass refineries across America's 140-million-acre corn belt and wheat basin, harvesting excess straws and stalks to produce highly decarbonized ethanol. 

The six-year strategy intends to attract $3.5 billion from capital markets to build four refineries and provide ample feedstock to New Energy Chemicals. Altogether, the refineries will be designed to keep over 1,000,000 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually.

New Energy Chemicals' phase-two expansion will benefit from both domestic and international demand for SAF as the Port Lavaca site has barge access to deep-water shipping.

Substantial European demand by 2030 is expected from the ReFuelEU Aviation initiative, which aims to mandate a SAF blending requirement at EU airports. New Energy Blue plans to license its platform globally to produce low-carbon, plant-based feedstock for HD auto fuel, SAF, and other biochemicals.

According to the U.S. Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, the American SAF goal is 3 billion gallons a year by 2030 and 35 billion gallons by 2050. 

Lifecycle analysis of the company's refinery project exceeds the required 50% reduction in GHG emissions as compared to ethanol made from corn grain or sugar cane. New Energy Chemicals is expected to pre-qualify for maximum decarbonizing credits.

New Energy Chemicals’ HD ethanol-to-ethylene process is mostly compatible with conventional jet fuel methods of production, using a technology pathway similar to Brazilian ethanol-to-SAF conversion.

New Energy Blue biomass refineries are capable of converting wheat, barley, and rye straws due to process design flexibility. The company plans to restore American grasslands by planting and harvesting perennials like arundo donax and miscanthus in arid regions.