Rentech project earns airline interest

Published 8:31 am Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rentech’s plans to bring a synthetic jet fuel plant and power plant to Adams County may not be fully off the ground, but 13 airlines have signaled they have interest in Rentech’s fuel which soon may clear the project for takeoff.

Rentech (NYSE AMEX: RTK) announced Tuesday morning that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 13 domestic and international passenger and cargo carriers that is intended to serve as a framework for a future definitive supply agreement for certified jet fuel from Rentech’s proposed synthetic fuels and power facility in Adams County.

The non-binding MOU signed by Rentech and Air Canada, AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, JetBlue Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, Mexicana Airlines, Polar Air Cargo, United Airlines, UPS Airlines and US Airways includes terms that are anticipated to serve as the basis of a possible definitive purchase agreement by these carriers for the Natchez Project’s entire synthetic jet fuel production of approximately 250 million gallons per year.

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“This agreement is a significant step forward, representing nearly two years of negotiations between Rentech and our airline partners, establishing a framework for a large group of diverse carriers to negotiate a definitive fuel purchase agreement,” said D. Hunt Ramsbottom, Rentech’s President and CEO. “We believe that successful relationships with our airline partners, suppliers and the government can advance what is expected to be the nation’s first large-scale synthetic fuels facility for environmentally superior alternative sources of domestic energy and significant new jobs that will help our economy grow. Rentech is leading America toward a lower carbon future with the use of domestic technology and resources to fuel our nation’s transportation needs.”

The Natchez Project has the potential to contribute significantly to domestic energy security and economic growth within the state of Mississippi and its surrounding regions. The proposed facility can provide a significant supply of synthetic jet fuel that meets or exceeds existing fuel standards in quality and emissions. A recent economic impact study completed by Alcorn State University concluded that the Natchez Project would create over 2,100 direct jobs and over 3,400 indirect jobs during the project’s construction phase. Once operational, the facility is expected to create over 400 high paying direct jobs and over 3,200 indirect jobs according to the study.

Fuel based on the Fischer-Tropsch process, including Rentech’s RenJet, is the only alternative jet fuel currently certified for use in commercial aviation at up to a 50/50 blend with traditional jet fuel. RenJet has a lower carbon footprint as well as lower regulated emissions compared to traditional jet fuel.

“Today’s announcement reinforces the proactive steps that airlines are taking to stimulate competition in the aviation fuel supply chain, contribute to the creation of green jobs, and promote energy security through economically viable alternatives that also demonstrate environmental benefits,” said Glenn Tilton, Air Transport Association of America, Inc. (ATA) Board Chairman and UAL Corporation and United Airlines Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Our intention as an airline industry is to continue to do our part by supporting the use of alternative fuels,” he said. “We urge the U.S. government and the investment community also to do their part to further support this critical energy opportunity.”

Construction of the facility is slated to cost more than $4 billion, which would be the largest development in Southwest Mississippi in recent history, if not ever.

“I am very pleased with the progress being made by Rentech in development of the Rentech Strategic Fuels and Chemicals facility in Adams County,” Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, said. “It is a long road to developing a project of this magnitude, and Rentech’s agreement with the airlines is a strong step forward in the effort to make this groundbreaking project a reality and create good paying careers for many residents of southwest Mississippi.”

Using Rentech’s patented and proprietary synthetic fuels technology based on Fischer-Tropsch chemistry, the Natchez Project as currently contemplated would produce approximately 400 million gallons per year of synthetic fuels and chemicals and over 120 megawatts of clean power from fossil feedstocks, with the possible integration of renewable feedstocks processed with Rentech’s biomass gasification technologies.

Rentech has contracted to sell all of the carbon dioxide to be captured at this proposed facility to Denbury Onshore, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Denbury Resources Inc. (Denbury). Carbon dioxide purchased under the long-term contract would be used for enhanced oil recovery to produce otherwise unrecoverable oil at Denbury’s Cranfield oil field in Southwest Mississippi as well as at the company’s oil fields within the greater Gulf Coast area.

The Cranfield oil field is currently hosting a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored carbon dioxide sequestration project that is the first in the nation to inject more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide into an underground rock formation followed by additional injections into the saline portion of the reservoir, more than 10,000 feet below the surface.

The sequestration of carbon dioxide captured at the Natchez facility would enable the fuels produced at the facility to have a life-cycle carbon footprint lower than that of petroleum-derived fuels, as concluded in a study conducted by the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory. The DOE study is accessible at

Rentech owns an approximately 450-acre property located adjacent to the Mississippi River in Adams County, the former International Paper mill site. The site has access to multiple feedstocks and product distribution channels including rail, pipeline, barge and roads. Feasibility engineering for the Natchez Project has been completed by WorleyParsons.