SUBLETTE COUNTY – What started as an innovative “green” concept to completely break down organic materials without incineration and emissions is evolving into a cutting-edge process that can create cleaner synthetic fuels from any organic materials.
Matt Murdock, CEO of Raven SR, announced last week that the Pinedale-based renewable fuels company, shareholders and partners have formed a new partnership called Raven SR S1, LLC, to build the first-ever green waste-to-hydrogen production facility in northern California.
And on Tuesday, Raven SR announced its plan to supply renewable, sustainable aviation fuel for a Japanese airlines.
Murdock is the new company’s CEO and Raven SR will operate the project in Richmond, Calif., to produce commercial hydrogen from up to 99 “wet tons” of green and food waste a day, diverting the organic waste from the West Contra Costa Sanitary Landfill using its licensed non-combustion steam/ carbon dioxide reforming process. It has virtually no emissions.
“Wyoming meets California, if you will,” Murdock said.
The process does not use fresh water as a feedstock, an added benefit to California’s policies that aim to supply synthetic fuels to transportation markets.
“Raven SR’s process converts waste into hydrogen rich syngas (not syn-fuel), which is the building block for either hydrogen fuel or synthetic diesel, jet or methanol fuels,” Murdock explained. “Essentially, we take apart the waste and rebuild it into different fuels: hydrogen, diesel, jet fuel and methanol, for instance.”
Raven SR’s facilities are designed to make hydrogen or rebuild synthetic fuels at this time.
The world is in an energy transition, he said. Synthetic fuel is lighter, has no sulfur and carries more power per molecule because it doesn’t contain the compounds added to petrochemical fuel, he said.
A larger global transition to the clean fuels will take years and other big steps to achieve, according to Murdock. “We’re very excited about where we’re going.”
The initial technology to transform and eliminate organic waste was conceived and invented back in the 1980s and 1990s by his second cousin, Dr. Terry Galloway, as a “green” and non-combustive alternative to incineration, according to Murdock.
“Incineration is cheap and was very popular,” Murdock said, until regulators and consumers grew more concerned about its emissions adding to greenhouse gases.
“The market wasn’t really there before – Galloway was more focused on getting rid of waste in a green way, not necessarily to make fuel,” he said.
Earlier systems built in the 1990s primarily focused on converting waste to syngas, which was burned in generators to create electricity, Murdock said.
“Now we are converting that same syngas into fuels. We presently have an engineering system in Berkeley, Calif., and our first full-size commercial fuels project is the one that was announced with Chevron and Hyzon.”
Murdock foresaw the technology’s potential role in the oil and gas industry as a way to turn “waste” natural gas into a usable synthetic gas, say from orphaned and abandoned wells, to recover smaller amounts and make it useful.
“In 2015, I started licensing his technology to convert natural gas into synthetic fuels” after Galloway’s passing, he explained. “In Wyoming a lone, for example, there are over 1,000 orphaned and abandoned wells. So if you had a system that could convert natural gas to fuel, you could draw from (an old well) where there’s a big need for diesel fuel.”
This could reduce operators’ flaring their natural gas “and make it productive again as cleaner, lighter fuel.
By 2018, Raven SR purchased and licensed all of Intellergy Inc.’s processes. The newly formed collaborative project coming to northern California has shareholder-investor Chevron New Energies holding a 50-percent equity stake, shareholder-investor Hyzon Motors with a 20-percent stake and Raven SR with 30 percent, Murdock explained.
This project is expected to generate 60 percent of its own power with the landfill’s upgraded generators and use less energy than previous technologies to complete the process.
Portions of Raven SR S1 LLC’s system for this project are being built by its own fabrication company, Benicia Fabrication & Machine in California. Including that company, Raven has about 80 employees total working on this and other projects.
Raven SR describes its technology as a “non-combustion thermal, chemical reductive process that converts organic waste and landfill gas to hydrogen and Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuels.”
Murdock said Raven’s modular gas-to-fuels system unit covers about a quarter-acre and its larger solids-to-fuels system, about 1.5 acres. Because of its zero-emission process – as well as little leftover material – can be located just about anywhere there is carbon-based organic waste or “feedstock.”
By removing the green waste, this project could prevent up to 7,200 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the landfill, he said.
“Hydrogen is becoming more and more important and our technology can convert any carbon-based feedstock – from banana peels to oilfield gas flares – to fuel.”
Chevron’s interest in the California landfill project is to market the hydrogen in the San Francisco Bay and northern California areas as zero-emissions synthetic fuel available at fueling stations, according to the announcement. Hyzon Motors is a global supplier of fuel cell electric commercial vehicles and “plans to provide refueling for hydrogen fuel cell trucks at a hydrogen hub in Richmond.”
This week on Tuesday, Jan. 17, Raven SR announced a new aviation fuel agreement, another putting the Pinedale-based company right on the cutting edge.
The agreement is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with All Nippon Airways to supply sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for its major global routes.
Raven SR will initially supply 50,000 tons of SAF in the first year, 2025, with annual incremental increases to 200,000 tons for the 10th year. The Japanese airline industry is required to reach a goal of net-zero CO2 aircraft emissions by 2050. Starting in 2024, Japanese airlines must reduce or offset 15 percent of emissions from 2019 levels, according to Murdock.
Raven SR’s noncombustible process to turn organic waste will be used at facilities outside Japan and convenient to “strategic markets globally.”
“By converting various types of local waste, such as green waste, municipal solid waste, organic waste and methane from municipal solid waster into clean fuels, Raven SR offers a sustainable solution for the reliable and long-term production of SAF,” the Raven SR announcement said.
Itochu, one of Raven SR’s strategic partners, introduced the privately held company’s technology to All Nippon Airways, whose executive vice president of procurement, Hideo Miyake, lauded the MOU.
“As part of our climate transition strategies, ANA is dedicated to being an industry leader with environmental commitments,” he said. “This announcement with Itochu and Raven SR will be of great importance and support our mid- and long-term carbon reduction goals.”
Murdock, who is also the mayor of Pinedale, said the MOU will “foster growth for Raven SR on a global basis and help ANA with its carbon-reduction commitments.”
Strategic SAF markets will allow “buying local fuel produced from local waste” for commercial production and sales, he added. “We see growing interest in such efficiency and circularity in renewable fuel distribution for aviation and other transportation sectors.”
To demonstrate this non-combustible technology, Murdock referred to the short video at https://youtu.be/RwZ1pBUKM_o.