US$80m grant to make jet fuel from wood chips

1 February 2023
A Georgia plant turning wood residue into jet fuel is receiving a big chunk of new federal funding to boost production, in the hopes that its products can eventually lower the climate change impact of the airline industry and other sectors.

The Department of Energy announced that it is awarding a US$80 million grant to AVAPCO LLC, a biofuel, biochemical and biomaterials company that currently operates a refinery in Thomaston, about 60 miles west of Macon. The agency released US$118 million to fund 17 projects around the country on Thursday, with AVAPCO’s grant by far the largest.

All of the projects receiving funding are working to advance U.S.-based production of biofuels — liquid fuels that can be made from plants, animal waste, used cooking oil and more. In a news release announcing the grants, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm cited the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a host of industries and build domestic energy independence in the process.

AVAPCO, in business since 2009, is now a subsidiary of GranBio, a Brazilian biotechnology firm. In 2016, the company received a US$4.7 million DOE grant for a phase 1 pilot demonstrating its method for converting woody residue from sawmills, paper and pulp plants into sustainable aviation fuel. The company’s process also produces nanocellulose, a fibrous material that can be used by rubber manufacturers to strengthen tires and other products.

Phase 1 of the company’s project was successful, the DOE said. Now, the new federal money will be used to fund construction of a larger plant capable of producing 1.2 million gallons of jet fuel annually, plus sustainable material for the rubber industry. The new plant, likely to be located in Thomaston, is expected to be operational by 2026, said AVAPCO’s chief technology officer Kim Nelson.

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Source: AJC