Ready to build: Sustainable jet fuel manufacturer breaks ground in Moses Lake

For the Basin Business Journal | August 29, 2023 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — A facility designed to reuse carbon dioxide and combine it with water to produce other products could be in production by spring 2024. Construction and remodeling started in July on the site of the Twelve facility located on Wheeler Road in Moses Lake.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was among those who joined the company’s owners at a groundbreaking ceremony July 11.

Co-founder and CEO Nicholas Flanders said the process allows carbon byproducts from other processes, in essence, to be recycled.

“The technology breaks apart CO2 and water and then recombines the elements to make more useful products, such as jet fuel. Jet fuel is totally made of carbon and hydrogen, so we get the carbon from CO2, and the hydrogen from water, and that allows you to make jet fuel that can be used in any aircraft today, but without using oil,” Flanders said.

Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer Kendra Kuhl the Moses Lake facility will help determine how well the process works on a larger scale.

“This will be the first plant of this size in the world,” Kuhl said. “The fundamentals are all there, but this is the first time that we’re scaling it up.”

Flanders said initial production will be five barrels per day, ramping up to 50 barrels per day in the second phase.

Kuhl said the process grew out of a graduate school project at Stanford with Twelve’s third co-founder, Etosha Cave, the company’s chief science officer. The process helps reduce carbon emissions, and as such, there’s a lot of interest in it, Kuhl said.

“I think there’s a lot of funding going into early stage, use-end development (of processes) that could be future solutions,” Kuhl said.

The ultimate goal is to find processes that can help reduce carbon emissions sooner rather than later.

“I think Tasha and I, and Nicholas (asked), ‘How can we take this thing that’s essentially happening in a beaker, at the lab scale, and make it industrially relevant?’ So that’s where it started,” Kuhl said.

Flanders said the founders are confident the process can be scaled up in a fashion to make it economically viable.

“It already does work,” he said.

The company worked with the U.S. Air Force to test it, he said, and determined that it is compatible with existing jet engines.

“Specifically, today, this fuel can be used in up to a 50-50 blend with conventional jet fuel,” he said. “And we’ve already scaled up all of the key parts of the process. So this plant is going to be the first commercial e-jet fuel plant. The vision is to start with the first phase of production now, then we’ll expand. We think in the future there could be potential to expand way beyond this site as well.”

The company has signed a contract with Alaska Airlines to provide its jets with fuel, Flanders said during the presentation, and also is working with Microsoft.

Brandon Middaugh, senior director for Microsoft’s climate innovation fund, said the company is working to reduce its carbon impact, and more sustainable jet fuel is one way to do that.

“Today is important to Kendra, Etosha and me as co-founders, because it marks the transition at Twelve from a phase of building and inventing to one of deploying and scaling,” Flanders said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

Twelve’s Moses Lake project was unveiled by Flanders at the Paris Air Show in company with Inslee.

“We’re here at the dawn of new aviation (initiatives), in the center of the aviation world, which is Washington state,” Inslee said.

Inslee said the reduction of carbon emissions is crucial, and the Twelve facility is an example of the new technologies that may help do that.

“We are the center of aviation technological advances in the world today,” Inslee said of Washington state.

Answering a question later, Inslee said carbon reduction is the long-term benefit of the sort of technical innovation represented by the Twelve facility. In the short to medium term, the facility will provide jobs in Grant County, both during construction and as it starts production.

“Think about the beauty of using carbon dioxide as a feedstock - C02 is the enemy,” Inslee said during his speech. “These folks have found a way to put it into our service to allow us to fly.”

Two buildings on the site are being remodeled, said Greg Dicosala, Twelve vice president of capital projects and operations.

Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake and the senator for the 13th Legislative District, said the project was a bipartisan effort, involving local legislators as well as Democratic colleagues. She was pleased to see two of the company’s founders are women, she said.

“It’s exciting to know that this plant is going to be used again. I drive by it almost every day, and I’m glad to know it’s going to be active again and in use.”