USDA announces loan guarantee for Ensyn RFO project

By Erin Voegele | December 10, 2015

The USDA has announced a conditional commitment for a $70 million loan guarantee to help build a 20 MMgy cellulosic biorefinery under development by an affiliate of Ensyn Corp. in Georgia.  The facility will produce a renewable fuel oil (RFO) product.

"There is a clear consumer demand for clean, American-made, renewable fuels, which our rural communities stand ready to meet," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA is proud to support environmentally and technologically sound projects like this one, which will increase biofuel availability nationwide and create jobs in rural Georgia. This loan commitment is the most recent example of our support for President Obama's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy, which includes alternative and renewable fuel sources."

The facility, located in Dooley County, Georgia, will employ Ensyn’s Rapid Thermal Processing technology, which uses a fast thermal process to convert biomass feedstocks in to biobased fuels. According to Phillip Caplan, a director of Ensyn Development Partners, the facility will take in locally-sourced woody biomass as feedstock. The resulting RFO can be used as a heating oil replacement and as a renewable feedstock for diesel and gasoline at production refineries.

Information released by Ensyn indicates the company has designed and commissioned 14 plants employing its proprietary RTP technology, six of which are currently in operation. This includes five plants producing specialty chemicals and heating fuels that are owned by third parties and supported by Ensyn, including one plant that has been in operation for more than 20 years. Ensyn also owns and operates a 3 MMgy RTP facility in Renfrew, Ontario. The Ontario plant uses the same core RTP technology for the production of RFO, which is sold to heating clients in the U.S. Northeast with spare capacity being maintained to seed the market in advance of larger production units being developed in Canada, Brazil and the U.S.

The Ontario plant has been qualified by the U.S. EPA to generate D7 cellulosic renewable identification numbers (RINs) under the renewable fuel standard program (RFS). Caplan said Ensyn plans to qualify the proposed Georgia facility for cellulosic RIN production as well.

The loan guarantee has been made under the USDA’s Biorefinery Assistance Program, which currently provides guarantees for loans made by commercial lenders to fund the development of biorefineries for the production of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing facilities, was expanded under the 2014 Farm Bill. The lender for record under the loan guarantee is Citi.

The USDA awarded the first loan guarantee under the Biorefinery Assistance Program in 2009 to Sapphire Energy for a project in New Mexico. Loan guarantees have also been made to the Freemont Community Digester in Michigan, Ineos New Planet Bioenergy in Florida, Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels LLC in Nevada and Cool Planet Energy Systems in Louisiana.