SAFFIRE Renewables Using NREL's Biomass Technology at Biofuel Pilot Plant in Kansas to Produce SAF

May 13, 2024
According to DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, ethanol made from lignocellulosic corn leaves, stalks, and cobs can help reduce GHG emissions by 88% to 108% on a life-cycle basis as compared to conventional jet fuel

SAFFiRE Renewables plans to introduce its pilot plant to turn agriculture residue into a scalable biofuel business near Liberal, Kansas, in late 2024. 

The company has negotiated a license agreement for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) deacetylation and mechanical refining (DMR) process, which uses an alkaline bath and a mechanical shredder to prepare corn stover for ethanol fermentation. The process combines low-severity chemical pretreatment and mechanical refining to avoid expenses and challenges of traditional pretreatments.

Ethanol developed at the plant will be operated by Conestoga Energy and can be upgraded into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using LanzaJet’s alcohol-to-jet technology at its Georgia facility. According to estimates, the resulting SAF will have a carbon footprint of at least 8% lower as compared to conventional jet fuel.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) provided initial funding for the plant, combined with 50% from Southwest Airlines. Southwest has the option to purchase SAFFiRE’s cellulosic ethanol and the subsequent SAF to fuel its aircraft.

According to DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, ethanol made from lignocellulosic corn leaves, stalks, and cobs can help reduce GHG emissions by 88% to 108% on a life-cycle basis as compared to conventional jet fuel.

SAFFiRE aims to advance cellulosic ethanol production, supported by a potential buyer, fuel credits, and NREL’s DMR technology. The pilot plant is expected to handle 10 tons of corn stover every day, producing roughly 0.3 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually.

SAFFiRE and Southwest are conducting a study on the ethanol and SAF markets and available tax credits to help build more, larger plants across the United States in the coming decade.

“This is good for the agriculture industry, the corn ethanol industry, the airline industry, and it can create jobs that are going to be here in the U.S.,” said Anthony Gregory, SAFFiRE’s CEO.