Envia Energy joint venture breaks ground on GTL plant in Oklahoma

By Katie Fletcher | May 22, 2015

Envia Energy, a joint venture (JV) between Waste Management Inc., Ventech Engineers International LLC, NRG Energy Inc. and Velocys plc, recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for its gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant, located adjacent WM’s East Oak Landfill.

“It’s a key milestone,” said Jeff McDaniel, commercial director of Velocys. “I think for any new process technology that’s one of those key milestones you have to get to. You have to confirm the commitment to the first commercial plant, and then you have to get the first commercial plant up and running.”

This Oklahoma City project will be the first of a series of GTL plants the Envia JV plans to develop to produce renewable diesel fuel, synthetic waxes and naphtha from a combination of landfill gas (LFG) and natural gas. Envia Energy is structured with each JV member contributing a needed component to the project. For one, the project will provide a commercial reference plant for the use of Velocys’ smaller scale GTL technology, deploying the company’s full-scale Fischer-Tropsch reactors. Ventech will design and build the project using its experience in the modular construction of process plants. The project will employ WM’s landfill gas recovery and clean-up techniques, and will obtain NRG’s experience in energy project development.

The JV first announced its formation last March. By August, Velocys announced that the final investment decision (FID) was made to proceed with construction of the commercial plant. Now, Envia Energy has completed all of the permitting to enable construction to move ahead, entered into the main contracts for the project, procurement of all major equipment has been completed and fabrication of the FT reactors and plant modules are underway. The facility is on track for commercial operation by the first half of 2016.

Envia Energy Oklahoma City is being constructed at the same location as WM’s pilot-scale landfill GTL unit due to the permitting, gas flow, gas collection systems, operation and finished product off-take and LFG being well understood at that site.

This commercial-scale plant will help cost effectively utilize the once flared LFG, improving Oklahoma City’s environmental profile. Another added benefit is job creation. The plant will create 13 full-time jobs and 120 to 150 on-site positions during construction. Thirdly, the types of fuels and products produced, for the portion of product from LFG, is regarded as renewable material. “We’re producing high-performing renewable products from a feedstock that is not utilized today,” McDaniel said.

Other news the Envia reported this month was the announcement that the JV earned EPA’s renewable fuel standard (RFS) pathway approval for the fuels and products created from the GTL process. Envia was informed that the biogas would be eligible to earn cellulosic diesel (D-code 7) renewable identification numbers (RINs) for production of diesel and cellulosic biofuel (D-code 3) RINs for naphtha.

Outside the Envia JV, Velocys is working on a range of GTL and biomass-to-liquid projects, said McDaniel. One example is the Red Rock Biofuels project in Lakeview, Oregon. According to McDaniel, they’re looking to reach a FID commitment later this year. In addition, Velocys is developing a GTL project in Ashtabula, Ohio, and has a number of other projects in the pipeline in North America and internationally.

According to McDaniel, Velocys’ FT reactor and catalyst system allows for the deployment of GTL on a smaller scale than conventional FT technology, making it well suited to a landfill site where its deployment can be scaled to the gas resource available.

McDaniel believes that this plant tells a wider, global story. “I really do believe that this plant is a stepping stone as part of a wider shift in the industry,” McDaniel said.  “Historically, with fuels and chemicals, it has been very concentrated with mega refineries and mega-conversion facilities generally on the coast. Now, as we are moving towards more renewable-based feedstocks and natural gas-based feedstocks, this really opens the door for more distributed facilities and a more decentralized mode of production.”

McDaniel adds, “I think that the project that we have in Oklahoma City and the others that the Envia JV will do is really a great example of that trend that is underway in the industry.”