- by Terry Maxon, December 31, 2014, Dallas Morning News
Southwest Airlines announced Wednesday that it plans to buy some biofuels made from waste wood, for use in its San Francisco Bay airports beginning in two years.
To use Southwest's phrasing, it is purchasing “low carbon renewable jet fuel, made using forest residues that will help reduce the risk of destructive wildfires in the Western United States.”
It has agreed to buy about 3 million gallons a year from Red Rocks Biofuels, a Fort Collins, Colorado, that focused on recycling that foresty stuff.
That won't provide much of Southwest's needs.
he Dallas carrier in 2013 bought 1,818 million gallons, so 3 million gallons would represent 0.2 percent of its needs or about 60 percent of an average day's usage.
But it might make a noticeable portion of the fuel needs at Southwest's Bay airports — San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose — where the fuel will be delivered beginning in 2016.
“Our commitment to sustainability and efficient operations led us on a search for a viable biofuel that uses a sustainable feedstock with a high rate of success,” said Bill Tiffany, Southwest's vice president of supply chain.
“Red Rock Biofuel's technology, economics and approved use made entering into an agreement for purchase a win-win situation,” he said.
“From the outset, we have sought to build the best possible team of project partners,” Red Rock CEO Terry Kulesa said.
“A conversation we started with Southwest on the premise of providing renewable jet fuel at cost parity with conventional jet fuel has evolved into a great partnership.
“We're happy to help Southwest diversify its fuel supply,”Kulesa said.
According to the announcement, “RRB's first plant will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass feedstock into at least 12 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel, and naphtha fuels.”
How can you turn humus, plant duff and twigs into fuel to fly a commercial airplane?
Here's Red Rock's explanation from its website:
“RRB's technology platform converts woody biomass to jet, diesel, and naphtha fuels. Our process begins with the gasification of woody biomass to produce synthesis gas.
“This synthesis gas is cleaned and sent to a Fischer-Tropsch unit where it is converted to liquid hydrocarbons.
“Hydroprocessing refines the liquid hydrocarbons to produce jet, diesel and naptha fuels.”
Red Rock has received a $70 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a “biorefinery” at Lakeview, Oregon, near the intersection of California, Nevada and Oregon and close to Fremont National Forest.