Rentech demo plant to produce advanced biofuel before year's end

| November 21, 2011

The Initial Public Offering closing announcement issued by Rentech Inc. on its 60.8 percent share in Rentech Nitrogen Partners isn’t the only recent closing by the company. A day before announcing that the IPO for its nitrogen fertilizer business awarded Rentech with $136.8 million in connection to the IPO’s closing after it initially opened on Oct. 26, Rentech also said that the company’s integrated biorefinery project in Commerce City, Colo., was mechanically complete.

According to Rentech, the commissioning, validation and startup of the demonstration facility are now underway, and the project that will put Rentech’s gasification technology to use was completed and ready for startup “within the original budget and schedule.”

The project, funded by a $23 million U.S. DOE grant, will operate as a 20-ton-per-day demonstration plant gasifying woody biomass or sugarcane bagasse. The project will now be integrated in part with an existing project demonstration unit that, according to Rentech, included a UOP upgrading technology for renewable jet and diesel fuels. Although the DOE helped fund the project, Rentech also supplied $36 million to build the gasifer, provide feedstock handling equipment and pay for 2,000 hours (roughly six months) of operation for data collection.

Harold Wright, chief technology officer for Rentech, said of the demonstration project’s readiness for startup, “Achieving mechanical completion of the [biorefinery] demonstration facility on-time and on-budget leads the way for cellulosic fuels production at the [demo plant] with the Rentech-ClearFuels gasifier,” adding that the DOE’s funding helped to make the project possible.

Along with help from the DOE, the team involved in making the project happen includes URS Corp., Linde Group, Hydro-Chem, Piper Electric Corp. and Ames Construction. The plant is expected to be producing renewable fuels before the start of 2012, and will ultimately provide the needed data for several Rentech-run commercial biorefinieries that the company believes are well suited for the Southeast U.S., Hawaii and Canada, locations where the company has plans for renewable energy projects.

The Rentech nitrogen facility located near the tri-state borders of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin produces anhydrous ammonia and urea ammonium nitrate solutions from natural gas.