British oil and gas company BP and specialty chemicals and sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey (JM) have signed an agreement with California-based Fulcrum BioEnergy to license Fischer Tropsch (FT) technology to support Fulcrum’s plan to convert municipal solid waste into biojet fuel.


Image: Fulcrum will use the technology at its Sierra BioFuels Plant located in Storey County, Nevada. Photo courtesy of satit_srihin/

The FT technology developed by BP and JM can operate at large and small scales to convert synthesis gas, generated from municipal solid waste and other renewable biomass, into long-chain hydrocarbons for the production of diesel and jet fuels.

Fulcrum will use the technology at its Sierra BioFuels Plant located in Storey County, Nevada. This will be the first commercial-scale plant in the US to convert municipal solid waste feedstock, or household garbage, into a low-carbon, renewable transportation fuel.

BP technology vice-president of group research Angelo Amorelli said: “Through our partnership with Johnson Matthey, we have developed a robust high-quality technology built on great science and great engineering.

“Our technology can help deliver innovative low carbon fuels that can play an important role in the energy transition. We see this first license as a stepping stone to other similar opportunities.”

The Sierra plant, which will begin commercial operation in the first quarter of 2020, is expected to convert 175,000 tons of household garbage into 11 million gallons of fuel each year – equivalent to the fuel required for more than 180 return flights between London and New York.

While fuel is usually blended, the Fulcrum bio-product has 80% less GHG emissions than a standard jet fuel. Approximately one ton of waste can produce one barrel of jet fuel.

BP and JM have been developing FT technology for more than 30 years and in 1996, they joined forces to further develop the technology.

Both companies have together developed a system that delivers thrice the productivity of a conventional multi-tubular fixed-bed reactor and reduces the capital expenditure by half when compared to traditional FT reactors.

JM business development and innovation director Eugene McKenna said: “We are delighted that Fulcrum has selected this technology to support their ambitions in supplying renewable fuels at significant scale.”