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Conestoga Set to Host SAFFiRE Cellulosic Ethanol Pilot Plant
Conestoga Set to Host SAFFiRE Cellulosic Ethanol Pilot Plant

Conestoga Set to Host SAFFiRE Cellulosic Ethanol Pilot Plant

  • 17-Nov-2023 6:24 PM
  • Journalist: Sasha Fernandes

Conestoga Energy and SAFFiRE Renewables LLC have jointly announced their collaboration, revealing Conestoga's role as the host for SAFFiRE's cellulosic ethanol pilot plant. The chosen location is Conestoga's Arkalon Energy ethanol facility in Liberal, Kansas. The primary objective of the SAFFiRE pilot project is to validate and demonstrate the commercial viability of SAFFiRE's corn-stover-to-ethanol technology in a fully integrated pilot facility designed to process 10 tons of corn stover daily. Both Conestoga and SAFFiRE share a common goal of producing ultra-low carbon intensity (CI) ethanol for renewable fuel applications, thereby fostering a synergistic relationship between the two entities.

The produced cellulosic ethanol from the SAFFiRE pilot project, along with potential future commercial facilities, is slated for further refinement into ultra-low CI sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This aligns with the broader objectives of the aviation industry to decarbonize its operations. SAF, which is derived from non-fossil fuel sources, holds the potential for lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to conventional jet fuel over the course of its lifecycle. By blending SAF with traditional jet fuel, it serves as a drop-in fuel crucial to the aviation industry's efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Given that aviation contributes 9-12% of U.S. transportation GHG emissions, the lower carbon intensity of SAF plays a pivotal role in achieving emissions reduction targets, according to the U.S. EPA.

Tom Willis, CEO of Conestoga Energy, expressed enthusiasm about the transformative collaboration, emphasizing its alignment with Conestoga's history of providing carbon-reducing and net-zero solutions in the bioethanol sector. Willis highlighted the crucial role of SAF in achieving net-zero carbon emission goals by 2050, emphasizing SAFFiRE's cellulosic ethanol technology's potential to produce cost-competitive ethanol that can be upgraded to SAF, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil-based jet fuel. Conestoga sees its participation as a significant stride for both the ethanol and aviation industries.

SAFFiRE Renewables' CEO, Tom Nealon, provided insights into the progress made in engineering and site design, expressing confidence that the pilot plant marks the initial step toward scaling and commercializing the conversion of corn stover to cellulosic ethanol. SAFFiRE envisions utilizing the alcohol-to-jet pathway to convert the produced ethanol into sustainable aviation fuel. Nealon emphasized the broader positive impact of this initiative on corn growers, ethanol producers, host communities, and the aviation industry. The rigorous site selection process underscored Conestoga's suitability as a partner, surpassing all requirements and reinforcing its standing as an exceptional collaborator for SAFFiRE Renewables.

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