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HPIn Brief

11.01.2011  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [biojet fuel grant] [jet fuel] [refining] [safety] [award] [safety award] [shale gas] [Murphy Oil] [automation]

Biojet fuel grant

Renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels firm Gevo has received a $5 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of biojet fuel from woody biomass and forest product residues. The award is a portion of a $40 million grant presented to the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a consortium led by Washington State University (WSU).

“This is an opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and drive economic development in rural communities across America by building the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuels industry,” said US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

NARA includes a broad consortium of scientists from universities, government laboratories and private industry. The WSU-led grant aims to address the urgent national need for a domestic biofuel alternative for US commercial and military air fleets.

The NARA project envisions developing a new, viable, aviation fuel industry using wood and wood waste in the Pacific Northwest, where forests cover almost half of the region. The project will also focus on increasing the profitability of wood-based fuels through development of high-value, biobased co-products to replace petrochemicals that are used in products such as plastics.

Gevo believes that woody biomass can be used as a cellulosic feedstock to create petroleum replacements such as isobutanol. This project is a critical next step in proving its effectiveness. Gevo intends to use its portion of the award to optimize its cellulosic yeast and fermentation process.

“The airline industry and the United States Department of Defense are eagerly looking for near-term alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuel,” said Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo.

Gevo previously announced its progress to airline engine testing using starch derived isobutanol to jet fuel. Gevo expects to receive full fuel certification by 2013 from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for its biojet fuel.

Calumet Specialty Products has completed its previously announced acquisition of Murphy Oil’s refinery and associated operating assets and inventories in Superior, Wisconsin, for about $442 million. The Superior assets provide greater scale, geographic diversity and development potential to Calumet’s refining business, as Calumet’s current total refining throughput capacity will increase by 50% to 135,000 bpd, the company said in a statement. The Superior refinery produces gasoline, diesel, asphalt, bunker fuel and specialty petroleum products that are marketed in the Midwest region of the US, including the surrounding border states, and Canada. The refinery’s assets include inventories valued at approximately $220 million as of August 31, 2011, and various owned and leased finished product terminals.

Infrastructure investments for the shale gas industry are growing amid rising global demand for natural gas, with current levels likely to triple by 2020 to reach 12.6Tcf, according to a new report from energy research firm SBI Energy. In the US, shale gas production increased at an annual rate of 48% from 2006 through 2010, reaching 4.8Tcf and representing 23% of the total US natural gas production.

Shale gas processing assets are now regarded as an attractive form of investment, the report says. An increase in gas and natural gas liquid products from these shale plays over recent years has led to billions of dollars worth of investments in gas processing infrastructure. The current market for shale gas processing equipment and components is limited to the North American continent, specifically in the US and Canada. While the US market has grown exponentially over the past five years, production increases are also occurring in Canada, where unconventional gas accounted for 25% of the country’s natural gas production in 2010.

Neste Oil will spend about €60 million in 2012 on process safety improvements for its Porvoo and Naantali refineries in Finland. Investments will focus on further improving process, fire and personnel safety by modernizing process automation and automated safety systems, the company said. The latter are autonomous systems that are capable of automatically taking over control of a process in the event of equipment malfunction, for example, and ensuring that operations remain safe at all times. Two process furnaces will also be replaced at Naantali, and new, safer office space for personnel will be built at Porvoo and the fire water system improved, according to the company. Neste Oil’s new automation and safety systems will be supplied by Finnish-based Metso, with which Neste Oil has recently signed a new framework contract.

Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd. (FWEL) has won the Five Star Health and Safety Management System Audit Award from the British Safety Council for the performance of FWEL’s UK-headquartered operation in Reading. The award follows a Five Star audit, in which the British Safety Council reviewed the health and safety performance of FWEL’s Reading home office operation. The British Safety Council Audit, encompassing the management of health and safety through to the implementation of associated systems in the workplace, results in an overall numerical score, or star rating, of the organization’s performance. Organizations are rated from one to five, with five being the top rating. FWEL’s Reading operation achieved a five-star rating, with an audit score of 93%.

A team of maintenance contractors at the ConocoPhilips Humber refinery in South Killingholme, UK, has achieved a period of five years (785,550 man hours) without an incident which led to a recordable injury. The team works for multi-disciplinary maintenance services company Hertel, which carries out a broad range of tasks across the Humber site including specialist painting, insulation, access services and scaffolding. Hertel has been working on the Humber refinery site for eight years and this is the seventh time in that period that a 12-month injury free period has been recorded. HP

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