By Tarso Veloso and Kim Chipman
Honeywell International Inc. and Summit Agricultural Group are partnering to build the world’s largest plant making ethanol-based aviation fuel — a project that’s likely to become a $1 billion facility and expected to open in 2025.
The plant will eventually produce enough jet fuel to power thousands of flights per year, according to Summit Agricultural, run by entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter. The facility will be located in the US Gulf Coast and will utilize Honeywell’s technology to transform ethanol into sustainable aviation fuel, known as SAF, the companies said in a statement Monday.
The global aviation market demands more than 100 billion gallons of jet fuel annually, with Summit estimating that figure will double in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, airlines across the globe are coming under increasing pressure to decrease their carbon emissions. The Biden Administration has announced a goal for SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand by 2050. Annual production in the US was 15 million gallons in 2022.
Summit said it’s in talks about providing SAF supplies to major airlines and freight companies.
Alden, Iowa-based Summit founded FS Bioenergia, the largest corn-based ethanol platform in Brazil, Amber Wave, a food ingredients and biofuel plant in Kansas, and Summit Carbon Solutions, a CO2 pipeline network that will connect more than 30 ethanol plants in the Upper Midwest.
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The project is a “natural extension” for the partner plants in the US that are using the other arm of the company, Summit Carbon Solutions, to de-carbonize the ethanol production, said Summit Ag Investors President Justin Kirchhoff.
The SAF plant will be in a unique position given its location in the US Gulf to utilize a variety of ethanol feedstocks from different locations. Alternative biofuels that are made from soybeans or fats have seen tighter feedstock supplies.
“We can produce a net negative carbon fuel in the US, and the only feedstock that has enough growth potential to make a difference on SAF is ethanol,” said Summit’s Rastetter.
The plant will be Honeywell’s first ethanol SAF deal licensing its technology. Airlines will need to “expand the feedstocks” used to make the fuel to include corn, because there’s not enough made from fats or oils to “meet the decarbonization goals for the airlines,” said Barry Glickman, vice president and general manager, Honeywell Sustainable Technology Solutions.