ExxonMobil announced an agreement with alternative fuels developer Global Clean Energy Holdings to purchase at least 12 million barrels of renewable diesel over five years. The engine-ready fuel will be partially derived from camelina, a plant, ExxonMobil said.
Global Clean Energy Holdings, Long Beach, California, is a renewable energy company focused on the production and commercialization of non-food-based feedstocks for biofuels, biomass, and renewable chemicals. GCEH announced in May that it purchased, for $40 million, Alon Bakersfield Properties, Inc., a subsidiary of Delek US Holdings, Inc. and the owner of the Alon Bakersfield Refinery, an oil refinery in Bakersfield, California.
Noting that the refinery had long been used to produce diesel from crude oil, GCEH said in its May 7 announcement that it would “immediately commence retooling the refinery to produce renewable diesel from organic feedstocks such as vegetable oils.” The retooling is expected to take 18 to 20 months, Global Clean Energy said. The refinery already has a significant portion of the necessary equipment in place to produce renewable diesel, GCEH said. Startup is anticipated to be in late 2021, the company said.
The facility will produce renewable diesel from various feedstocks, including GCEH’s patented proprietary fallow land crop varieties of camelina. Traditionally, grown in rotation with wheat, camelina is cultivated as an alternative to fallow so as not to displace or compete with food crops. The balance of feedstock will be provided from various non-petroleum renewable feedstocks, such as used cooking oil, soybean oil, distillers’ corn oil, and others.
“Camelina renewable diesel has competitive advantages that should allow it to meet increasing demands for lower-emissions fuels, and that’s why we’ve committed to purchasing at least 12 million barrels over five years, whether it’s for use into our own system or for sale directly to others,” Jarrett McCleskey, ExxonMobil project lead, said in an Aug. 11 statement posted online. “This supply will also help fulfill regulatory requirements for us to blend renewable diesel with petroleum-based fuels we already sell.”
Camelina is “a relatively unknown feedstock for renewable diesel, but it has a number of attributes that make it attractive from both an environmental and cost perspective,” said Steve Papaleo, co-lead on the ExxonMobil project. “First of all, you can grow this plant in a field that is normally fallow. Fallow land is intentionally left unplanted to restore soil quality, so the camelina planting maximizes the utility of this land without displacing acreage used for food production. Second, the seed has a high oil content, and this means a high oil yield from the extraction process and less total acreage needed. This allows the camelina oil to be produced at a lower cost, which is important as the feed oil is the highest cost component in renewable diesel production.”—Stephen Bennett