Mike Roberts, pictured above, was one of two presenters on the Wellington Mirotech project during a recent Castle Country BEAR meeting.
BEAR Press Release
The long-awaited construction at the site where Wellington Microtech will stand will begin soon, said principals in the project during a presentation to the Castle Country Business Expansion and Retention general board on April 25. Mike Roberts and Mike McCandless spoke to the group about everything from construction to operations to how the fuel will be used once they begin production.
“The time of construction should run between 18 and 24 months and we should be ready to start to deliver product to our customers by the fourth quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022,” stated Roberts.
The construction will take place in stages and will be done in a “design build” mode. Much of the construction is based on contractor inspection and compliance, but the warehouse and offices will require building permits, which will be issued when those parts of the plant are ready to be built.
Roberts told the group that the facility will look a lot like a refinery, but uses a different kind of feed stock to create the fuel that it will produce.
“It is a bio fuel, micro refinery,” he said. “It’s profile will be similar to what you have seen in Utah or even on the coast, but the processing equipment is different. We will be using distillers, corn oil and used cooking oil to make the fuels. They are considered waste oils.”
The capacity of the plant as planned is 46 million gallons per year of renewable fuels.
“This is not making bio diesel, because that process uses bio mass and alcohol,” he explained. “This process is a true conversion process.”
The products produced will be drop-in replacement products for jet fuel and diesel applications.
“The products will be used in a very unique way,” he said. “To make a bio fuel or a flex fuel. Typically, flex fuel is gasoline and ethylene products. This will be 100 percent bio fuel.”
He said the diesel bio fuel they will be producing is much more friendly to the environment than regular diesel fuel.
The facility will be built directly east of the Savage Coal Terminal. The area there is served by both Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads. The materials used and shipped from the plant will be rail in and rail out. There will be no increased trucking traffic in the community.
“That (rail line competition) helps us with our freight rates and is one of the primary reasons we chose to locate in this area,” he said.
Roberts said that on June 1, 2018, the Utah State Division of Air Quality issued an air permit for the plant. The zoning has been completed on the area and permits have been issued and recorded for the construction process. The purchase of the property on which the plant will be built closed on March 31.
He said the process that has been developed has been the work of the company and affiliated partners. The fuel will be created in a completely different process than that created by typical bio diesel operations and it has been certified as a drop-in fuel for diesel for the Navy and for military aircraft aviation fuel as well.
“No one else has been able to achieve that,” said Roberts. “ASTM is a scientific board that approves commercial fuels and they are presently in the process of certifying this as jet fuel. We expect to have that certification by June 1.”
Roberts said that bio fuels are important because there are laws that were passed in the early 2000s that mandate the mixing of bio fuels with traditional fuels. He said as of this year, there is a massive void to fill the requirements of the law with the industry only presently producing about four billion gallons of bio fuels a year while 20 billion gallons are needed. He said there is a lot of federal and state support (from states such as Washington, Oregon and California) for these kinds of fuels. Much of what is produced at the plant will be sold into California.
“There is definitely a growing marketplace for the products we will produce,” he said.
He stated that Chevron is on both sides of the development of the plant; both in assisting with the research on the process and as the off take company for much of the product that will be made. McCandless then spoke about the facility itself and the pending construction.
“We are going to build a new rail yard that will tie into the Castle Valley spur,” he said. “When we brought the investment people here to examine what we wanted to do, what was amazing about this site was the amount of infrastructure that was already in place. These guys had done developments all over the world and what they had never seen, particularly in a rural community, is a place where there was fiber, natural gas, high and low voltage power, etc. It was quite stunning to them to find a site where all of that had already been developed.”
He said the rail yard will consist of an additional two miles of track and that will be good because the company will not be able to control when shipments of feed stock arrive and when the production loads go out.
“We need to be ready to have places for all those cars,” he said. “That is key to the project.”
He stated there will be 57 individual pieces of equipment that will operate together to process the feed stock. Most of that will be located on concrete skids. Those include everything from fuel handling to water processing. As for water use, because of the nature of the refining process, the plant will actually produce more water with the breakdown of the materials than it will use. The plant will have a water treatment facility that will clean the water before it is released into the drainage. Roberts said it will be some of the most expensive water to produce.
“While we will be making water, we will be a huge consumer of natural gas,” explained McCandless. “We will be using approximately 140 decatherms per hour. That is more natural gas consumed in an hour than Huntington uses in a month.”
A tank farm will be constructed and in aggregate will hold about the same amount of material as those that presently exist at the Price River Terminal three miles east of where the plant will be built. The life of the plant as constructed will be 20 years, but more than likely Roberts said the plant will operate for up to 50 years. McCandless explained that the plant will be of a modular design so when a module goes out, it can be replaced.
“This is much different than many refineries where everything is so tied together it is almost impossible to do that,” he said. “There is also a lot of redundancy.”
The plant will have high security based on the anti-terrorism laws that are in place in the United States.
“This will be a 24-hour-a-day operation and there will be a lot of security and monitoring of the plant,” stated McCandless.
He explained that some of the main reasons they wanted to put the plant where it will be built is because it gave them a good position on competitive rail service and because of the workforce in the area.
“The vast majority of who we will hire live here today,” he said. “These are refinery types of jobs so they will have refinery types of wages. It should provide some of the higher-wage opportunities (plus benefits) in Carbon and Emery counties. We want to keep our employees because this is not something one comes into and starts to work at within an hour. Employees will begin work several months before the plant begins to produce anything. They will be helping with the construction and the startup.”
The plant will begin with employing 30 people post construction. There are essentially two subsets to the jobs that will be created. One will be handling and loading the feed stock/production. Then, there are the control room positions, which are similar to those presently existing at the power plants in the area.
“The control room will be set up with windows on three sides so that between the visual and the control panels, personnel there will be able to see and manage everything from one location,” stated McCandless.
In terms of safety, the plant will have a massive fire protection system. The company will also be supplying the Wellington Fire Department with technology that doesn’t exist in the area now because fighting fires at such a plant is very different that fighting a regular structure fire. In addition, the company will pay to send some of the fire personnel to an out-of-state fire education program that will give them the training to fight fires that could occur at the plant.
The long lead time in building the plant is because there are certain pieces of equipment that take awhile to construct. However, McCandless said the bulk of the construction can be done in about six months.
“We are very grateful for the support of the community, Wellington City and particularly BEAR for supporting what we are doing. The Pro Carbon Board has also been phenomenal to work with as well,” concluded Roberts.