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Birth of the Post Fossil Industry: World Energy grabs the reins in SAF, renewable diesel and hydrogen


Posted by Jim Lane on The Digest

What in the World is up with World Energy? News has arrived of two massive storylines in the same week from World Energy, prompting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pay a congratulatory visit and inspiring the Digest to wonder what vitamins are in the water.

First, the breaking hydrogen news is that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accompanied by key Cabinet Ministers have committed their countries to a historic accord to accelerate the growth of green hydrogen. They chose the World Energy GH2 site for renewable hydrogen production and distribution project at Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, for the signing.

A long list of German industry leaders focused on green hydrogen will be at the event including:

• Werner Baumann, CEO, Bayer
• Dr. Christian Bruch, President and CEO, Siemens Energy
• Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen Group
• Ola Källenius, CEO, Mercedes-Benz Group
• Dr. Burkhard Lohr, CEO, K&S
• Lena Lüneburger, General Manager, Werkzeugbau Ruhla
• Philipp Maracke, CEO, FSG-Nobiskrug
• Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Maubach, CEO, Uniper SE
• Prof. Dr. Siegfried Russwurm, Member of the Managing Board, Siemens
• Jens Meier, Chairman and CEO, Hamburg Port Authority
• Cathrin Wilhelm, CEO, BINZ Automotive
• Dr. Ralf Wintergerst, Chairman and CEO, Giesecke+Devrient

Canadian hydrogen leaders from Pattern Energy, Northland Power, Brookfield, Belledune, Everwind, Buckeye, Evolugen, Source3, H2One and Fortescue will also be in attendance. It will be the largest gathering of its type ever assembled and will mark the birth of an important new industry. The Qalipu First Nation, the Miawpukek First Nation and other local Indigenous communities will also be participating.

World Energy GH2’s project is called Nujio’qonik, meaning ‘where the sand blows’ in the language of the area’s Indigenous peoples. The project will harness Atlantic Canada’s wind resources, which are among the best in the world, to produce three gigawatts of renewable power to drive the electrolysis of water to generate over 250,000 metric tons of hydrogen. Green hydrogen can be used to drive decarbonization in hard-to-abate sectors such as steelmaking, aviation, and agriculture. The project is expected to deliver 1,800 direct construction jobs, 300 direct operations jobs and 3,500 indirect jobs.

Renewable diesel and SAF advancing in Houston

As we reported earlier this week in the Digest, World Energy plans to convert its existing biodiesel and terminal assets in Houston to launch a new Sustainable Aviation Fuel hub that will enable the company to produce another 250 million gallons of SAF annually by 2025. In April, the company announced plans to produce 250 million gallons of SAF annually by 2024 at its Paramount, Calif. site, and this announce will double the company’s capacity by 2025, making the low-carbon fuel available to most U.S. and many global markets for the first time. The move will also get the company more than halfway to meeting its commitment to produce one billion gallons of SAF by 2030, five years ahead of that goal.

World Energy’s current biofuel facilities, acquired in 2016, are located on the Houston Ship Channel at mile zero of all major U.S. pipelines, with direct deep water access at the heart of the U.S. energy production and distribution complex, and directly connected to two local international airports.

World Energy operates the world’s first SAF plant, in Los Angeles, and is underway on a $2 billion expansion project to boost capacity to 375 million gallons of renewable fuels. Amazon Air, United, JetBlue, Rolls-Royce, and Boeing are among many current partners using SAF to advance low-carbon air travel and to accelerate the drive to large scale aviation decarbonization.

The Bottom Line

We’ll note the kind and worthy thoughts about moral imperative and a world needing to make faster and better progress on decarbonization — let’s get down to the brass tacks here. World is making a move towards global leadership in the Fossil Free Industry.

Let’s take a moment to parse that new term.

For some time, there’s been a biodiesel industry, an ethanol industry, a hydrogen industry (and its green H2 section), a SAF industry, a renewable chemicals industry, a biomaterials industry, a wind industry, a solar industry, and on and on and on. There’s even a direct air capture industry and waste-to-energy. There’s power-to-x. There are so many acronyms, it feels like a bowl of alphabet soup. World Energy has been a leader in several of those. As have others.

But convergence has come. Not only at a technical level — where fermentation creates foods as well as fuels. Where wind and solar create the power for electrolyzers to split water for green hydrogen. At a societal level, at a systems level, we are beginning to see what some call renewables, some call new foods, some call sustainable enterprise, become one important thing. We are transitioning from the “battle of fossil vs the forces of fossil-free” to something better, something that looks like an industrial model of the future rather than a protest against industrialism.

It’s one big industry. It’s about Post Fossil technologies, the way that these technologies interact, and how they do so in new and surprising ways. It’s the Post Fossil industry — and the biggest players may well be those who are now dominant in the fossil industries, if they nimbly build, acquire and deploy. Not every major player is doomed to be Blockbuster, not every new entrant is Netflix. Not every car or shirt will be fossil free in 10 minutes.

But this industrial movement, born of a hundred technologies developed independent of each other, has become one big thing that will become a key part of lots of existing industries, just as the software industry is everywhere, too.

It is becoming a part of power, fuels, materials, foods. Some aspects may be circular, some may not. Some fuels will be blends for some time, some will not. Just as movie studios sell to cinemas, sell DVDs, distribute through cable and over the air through streaming. Conversion takes time, the future comes quick but not as quick as Shake-and-Bake. Infrastructure and price will apply the brakes as they always did. The automobile arrived in the 1870s and still carts and horses are used in every-day commerce in western Romania, right next to the uber-modern Clariant 2G ethanol plant. Even the conversion from horses to mechanical transport is not yetcomplete.

But it’s coming, and it deserves one big name, and “renewables” means “wind, solar, and EVs” to far too many people. That phrase has become lost in the wind, the winds of change, so to speak. Who will be the big players? Seems to me that every one of the companies at the hydrogen event in Canada would like to be considered a contender. World Energy — more than a contender, it’s early in the race but they are at the front of the pack heading for the turn.

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