How Engineers will Convert Garbage to Jet Fuel

Biofuels plant to produce renewable syncrude from household trash with $200 million contract.

Converting garbage into fuel isn’t an unheard of concept and soon it might become a livelihood for a lot of engineers.

A $200 million dollar fixed-price Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contract will see the creation of a biofuels plant designed to convert 200,000 tons of garbage from its local landfill into 10 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel annually.

The facility’s process begins with a front end gasification system, converting the organic components of household garbage, or municipal solid waste (MSW) into a synthesis gas (syngas). These gases consist primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

The syngas is then purified through the Fischer-Tropsch process to produce syncrude, which is refined into transportation fuel.

A diagram of the Fischer-Tropsch process.

A diagram of the Fischer-Tropsch process.

The contract was awarded to Spanish multinational corporation Abengoa by Fulcrum Bioenergy, a renewable energy company.

“Abengoa is the seventh largest EPC company in the U.S. and is one of, if not, the premier engineering and construction firms in the renewables space,” said E. James Macias, Fulcrum’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “They have the demonstrated experience and capabilities and have stepped up and made the business commitments to get the job done for us.”

Fulcrum hasn’t been sitting on its hands, having signed MSW feedstock contracts with a number of its waste service partners. Additional projects across North America will give Fulcrum the capacity to produce more than 300 million gallons of low-carbon, renewable transportation fuels annually.

To be located 20 miles east of Reno, Nevada in Storey County, the Sierra Biofuels Plant is planned to significantly lower carbon emissions and stimulate economic growth in Nevada, creating over 500 engineering, construction and operations jobs.

With the rise in alternative fuels and the growing concerns in waste management, this could be the answer to many problems.

Where else can you see engineers fitting into the equation? What implications can you see in store for the energy industry?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about Fulcrum BioEnergy, visit

For more information on Abengoa, visit