Drop-In Fuel Hotspot

Sundrop Fuels has big plans in Louisiana—and beyond
By Bryan Sims | January 09, 2012

Colorado-based Sundrop Fuels Inc. has agreed to purchase about 1,200 acres of land near in Rapids Parish, La., for the planned construction and operation of a biorefinery that will use locally sourced woody biomass to produce up to 50 MMgy of sulfur-free, low benzene green gasoline.

To pay for the proposed $500 million project, Sundrop Fuels intends to sell tax-exempt private activity bonds that don’t carry with them financial obligation from state or local authorities, and investments from strategic partner Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s second-largest natural gas provider. Venture capital firms Oak Investment Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers will also help cover project costs. The company expects to break ground on the first commercial production facility  by the fourth quarter this year with plans for full-scale production by 2014, according to Steven Silvers, spokesman for Sundrop Fuels, adding that negotiations with feedstock suppliers are underway while offtake agreements have not been executed yet. 

Sundrop Fuels’ green gasoline platform is based on its patented, trademarked RP Reactor, a radiant particle heat transfer technology that generates temperatures of more than 1,300 degrees Celsius to convert woody biomass into syngas, which is then converted into finished biobased gasoline via ExxonMobil’s well-established methanol-to-gasoline synthesis production process. With the ability to use natural gas, electricity or concentrated solar energy to power the RP Reactor, Silvers says Sundrop Fuels’ use of high-temperature heat transfer to drive endothermic gasification results in higher yield of biofuel per ton of biomass feedstock than other traditional gasification methods. “What we do is strip hydrogen molecules from natural gas then combine them to the biomass feedstock that’s being gasified,” Silvers tells Biorefining Magazine. “This provides for a 2-to-1 [hydrogen to carbon] ratio while at the same time letting us produce 50 percent more biofuel than we could with biomass alone. Virtually every molecule of carbon used becomes liquid fuel. No carbon is wasted.”

With a pilot facility in Colorado demonstrating its technology, Sundrop Fuels intends to develop a commercial-scale biorefinery capable of producing about 200 MMgy, anticipated to be in operation by 2016. The company has a grand vision of 1 billion gallons of production capacity by 2020.

—Bryan Sims