‘Back to the Future’ biorefinery draws international attention at Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center

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By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

Bruce Breslow remembers well the 1985 hit move, “Back to the Future.”

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“If you think about to ‘Back to the Future,’ they have the ‘flux capacitor’, when you put garbage into a car and it powered it,” Nevada’s director of the Department of Business and Industry said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers.

Now that garbage-to-fuel idea will soon become a reality as plans are underway to build a biorefinery — the first of its kind in the United States — at the Reno-Tahoe Industrial Center, Breslow said.

Partners in the deal are Waste Management and Fulcrum Bioenergy, Breslow said.

The state, through the Nevada Board of Finance, will issue a $150 million bond to help build the facility, Breslow said.

The overall project, however, comes with $280 million of capital investment, according to the  Fulcrum website. The project will be good for 500 construction jobs, 120 permanent jobs and approximately 1,000 indirect jobs, according to Fulcrum.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

Fulcrom completed a 65,000 square foot feedstock-processing facility in 2016 at TRIC. It’s biorefinery is expected to begin operation in 2020, according to the Fulcrum website.

“So Phase One is what they call a feed-stock facility,” Breslow explained on Newsmakers. “They have a partnership with Waste Management. They are going to take 20,000 pounds of organic garbage and instead of putting it in a land fill, it is going to be crushed and separated.”

Phase two will involved the biorefinery, Brewslow said.

“It (crushed garbage) will be brought by truck over to a site they have and through a process invented in the 1920s, which by the way is a green process, will turn that into synthetic fuel,10 million gallons a year. Those 10 million gallons of synthetic fuel will be trucked by a partner of theirs to the Bay Area and it will be refined and processed as jet fuel and diesel fuel,” Breslow said.

The TRIC facilities are ideally situated. The feedstock processing facility is near Waste Management’s Lockwood Regional Landfill, one of the largest landfills in the Western U.S, according to Fulcrum. The feedstock processing plant is also near Fulcrum’s Sierra Biorefinery to “maximize supply-chain logistics and reduce transportation costs,” according to Fulcrum.

Plus, the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park is located next to a cross-country interstate highway system (I-80) and railroad line.

The biorefinery will convert the garbage into a low-carbon syncrude, according to Fulcrom’s website. The syncrude product will then be transported to an Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) refinery to be further processed into diesel and jet fuel.

The “Back to the Future” garbage-to-jet-fuel process has attracted interest worldwide, Breslow said.

“They also have partnerships with American Airlines, British Petroleum,” Breslow said of Fulcrum. “The U.S. Department of Defense is an investor in this project.”

News reports, however, have highlighted the global interest in the facility.

In June, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of Australia visited Fulcrum’s plant as part of a U.S. trade mission, according to Australia’s Courier-Mail.

While in Nevada, Palaszczuk also visited with Gov. Brian Sandoval and toured the Telsa gigafactory, also at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park.

Fulcrum’s renewable syncrude fuel is very clean, contains zero sulfur and has only 20% of the carbon footprint as petroleum crude oil, according to its website.

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