Cool Planet Energy Systems Announces $168 Million Investment In Louisiana Bio-Refineries

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

The illustration above shows how plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as part of the natural carbon cycle. During plant respiration and decomposition, the CO2 is released back into the atmosphere (left image). By using plant biomass as the source of our fuel cycle, the fuel created is considered carbon neutral when it is burned, as it only releases back into the atmosphere the same CO2 that was originally captured by the biomass (right image).

Cool Planet Energy Systems President and CEO Howard Janzen announced the company will build three bio-refineries in Louisiana with a capital investment of $168 million. The project will consist of modular biomass-to-gasoline refineries in Alexandria, Natchitoches and a site to be determined.

Cool Planet will create 72 new direct jobs, averaging $59,600 per year, plus benefits. Additionally, LED estimates the project will result in 422 new indirect jobs, for a total of 494 new jobs. The company estimates 750 construction jobs will also be created by the project.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said, “These bio-refineries are great news for Alexandria, Natchitoches and our entire state. We are now setting the pace for innovative new technologies that harness Louisiana’s renewable energy resources and supply advanced fuels to meet our nation’s energy demands.

“Through companies like Cool Planet Energy Systems, Louisiana is delivering tomorrow’s technology today and providing our workers with even more opportunities. Cool Planet could have invested anywhere in the world, but they chose our state because of our strong business climate, vast oil and gas infrastructure and our world-class energy workforce. Wins like these Cool Planet facilities create great new career opportunities for our people as we work to make Louisiana the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.”

Cool Planet will begin construction in January 2014, with the first site at the Port of Alexandria beginning operations in late 2014. Construction will begin on the second bio-refinery at the Port of Natchitoches by the summer of 2015, with a completion date in the summer of 2016. The third site is scheduled to come online in late 2016 at a Louisiana site to be determined. Cool Planet also will establish a regional office at the Port of Alexandria, where the City of Alexandria plans to make more than $500,000 in infrastructure improvements.

Cool Planet will harvest wood waste and forest byproducts to make gasoline at its initial commercial-scale facilities in Louisiana. Each bio-refinery will be capable of producing 10 million gallons of high-octane, low-vapor pressure gasoline for strategic distribution through existing market channels and for blending at Louisiana refineries. The fuel will be compatible for use in existing vehicles on the road today.

The company’s business model calls for developing 400 of the micro-refineries across the U.S. in the next decade. Major Cool Planet investors include BP, Google Ventures, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips and NRG Energy), North Bridge Venture Partners, Shea Ventures and the Constellation division of Exelon.

Using a proprietary process, Greenwood Village, CO-based Cool Planet also will market biochar, a byproduct of the refining process that will be used as an agricultural supplement to boost water retention and reduce carbon released from crops. This process makes Cool Planet’s overall production cycle a carbon-negative process – meaning the project will achieve a net reduction of greenhouse gases.

“Cool Planet chose Louisiana for multiple reasons, including abundant renewable feedstock supply and a business-friendly attitude toward innovative companies like ours,” Cool Planet Energy Systems CEO Howard Janzen said. “The support we have seen here enhances our unique distributed production model, which envisions locating small bio-refineries near biomass sources to keep both operating and capital costs low. Our goal is to have operating and capital costs that are competitive with conventional oil industry gasoline production costs.”

Cool Planet will be able to use wood residues—such as the tops of trees, branches, tree bark and tree thinnings —that will create additional value for Louisiana forest owners and timber management companies. The wood chips that Cool Planet uses are sustainably harvested and included as part of the federally approved pathway for the renewable fuel standard.

The City of Alexandria will provide gas, water, sewer and electrical upgrades, along with road improvements at the 30-acre Port of Alexandria site. Upriver from Alexandria, the Natchitoches Parish Port will provide a Red River site for Cool Planet’s second bio-refinery in Louisiana.

“Alexandria is very excited to contribute resources to the economic development of our area. This development will help attract new business to the area and create new jobs,” said Alexandria Mayor Jacques M. Roy.

“We are thrilled that Cool Planet Energy Systems has chosen the Port of Alexandria as the location for its first commercial bio-refinery,” said Norman Welch, Alexandria Port Commission member. “We look forward to partnering with Cool Planet to not only make this first facility a success, but also to accommodate the company’s future plans to expand in Central Louisiana.”

Cool Planet’s production plants will be 100 times smaller than a typical oil refinery, but the company’s largely prefabricated systems can be moved near concentrated biomass sources, reducing transportation costs and increasing efficiency. Those savings will enable the company to produce gasoline that’s competitive with oil refineries at prices as low as $50 per barrel while eliminating the need for government fuel credits or subsidies.

LED began working with Cool Planet on potential Louisiana locations in September 2012. To secure the project, Louisiana offered the company a competitive incentive package that includes a $750,000 Economic Development Award Program grant to offset infrastructure costs, along with the services of the LED FastStart®  workforce training program. Cool Planet also is expected to use the state’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

“Cool Planet’s decision to invest in Central Louisiana reinforces two important messages,” said President Jim Clinton of the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. “First, Central Louisiana is a great location for making things. And second, Central Louisiana is emerging as a national leader in high-tech biomass and renewable energy applications.”

“North Louisiana Economic Partnership and the Natchitoches community are pleased to welcome Cool Planet Energy Systems to North Louisiana,” NLEP President Scott Martinez said. “Cool Planet’s environmentally friendly bio-refineries produce more than just fuel from wood waste, the plants produce much-needed jobs for the area.”