PPD of WV One Partners with Proton Power to Launch Synthetic Diesel Plant

PPD WV is promising a product to meet ASTM technical standards for number one and number two biodiesel fuel.

Renewable energy company PPD of WV One, in partnership with Lenoir City, Tenn.-based company Proton Power, expects to launch a $80 million plant early in 2018 in Greenbriar County, West Va. It will process wood waste to produce 7.2 million gallons of diesel a year mixing the resulting tonnage of biochar with dirt to make a soil enhancer.

If the product and market pan out, a few more facilities will follow in the same region, says Jason Perry, vice president of business development of PPD of WV One.

“The technology can be adapted to different feedstocks, but for now we are focusing on wood waste,” Perry says. “We are engaging with feedstock providers in West Virginia, including saw mills, the timber industry, and flooring companies.”

The Greenbriar operation will require about 120,000 tons of wet feedstock a year. Generators will give wood waste to the startup company, which is currently also setting up contracts with local haulers.

“We are working to get up to the amount [of wood] we will need, and we are close,” Perry says. “There is enough feedstock availability out there to be able to open several plants, and we anticipate doing this in time.”

PPD WV is promising a product to meet ASTM technical standards for number one and number two biodiesel fuel. The plan is to sell it to trucking companies, fuel refineries and other businesses.

The biochar—the plant portion that is not converted into gas—cnsists mostly of high-grade carbon and nutrients that will be processed into 100 percent organic product for agriculture applications. 

“We have a few groups in the agriculture industry that want to purchase this, and we also have letters of intent with a few purchasers of fuel,” Perry adds. “But contracts will go into effect only once the plant is up and running and they can test it themselves through a third-party to confirm the fuel is what we say it is.”

The Proton process to convert feedstocks into synthetic diesel fuel is somewhat unique.  

“One of the most important differences is that the PPI process occurs at a very high temperature—over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit compared to processes that operate between 500 to 1,100 degrees,” says Jim Bierkamp, business development manager, Proton Power. “ In addition, the fuel conversion process is a direct syngas-to-fuel process.  It does not require catalysts. It operates at near atmospheric pressure, and does not require multiple iterations of heating and cooling to convert syngas directly into diesel fuel.  The combination of these attributes makes for a more efficient overall process.”

PPD of WV will hire and train workers in quality control so they can identify materials to place in the system and know how to maintain the equipment. Feedstock will be tested daily to pull in the right size as well as for consistency of chips, moisture, and wood type. Routine chemical tests on the fuel will be conducted to ensure it meets governmental standards.

The company plans to sell primarily within West Virginia for logistical reasons.

“We want to avoid shipping fuel far,” Perry says. “But we also want to generate jobs in West Virginia and keep existing jobs there.”

The firm has selected a site with access to Interstate 64 to be able to bring in haulers without impacting the residential community.

With capital in place to build the plant, it is working out details including completing the air and construction permitting processes and setting up for electricity, sewer and water. 

“There was no efficient power infrastructure for a large-scale commercial industrial facility, so we are in the process of planning for this, working with the utility, AEP,” says Perry.

The Greenbriar Valley Economic Development Corp. was instrumental in introducing PPD of WV to property owners. Established by the state of West Virginia, the corporation serves three counties and is charged with attracting new jobs and revenue.

 “We in a holding period, awaiting PPD of WVs’s instructions to move forward once they line up all remaining details,” says Andrew Hagy, the economic development corporation’s executive director. “We are excited that they are talking about creating jobs and investing in the county, and look forward to helping them cross the goal line.”

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