Brightmark Energy breaks ground on innovative waste-to-fuel plant

KPC News Service

May 23, 2019

ASHLEY — Brightmark Energy, a San Francisco-based waste and energy development company, broke ground Wednesday on the nation’s first commercial-scale plastics-to-fuel plant in Ashley.

A total of 136 full-time manufacturing jobs will be created when all phases of the 112,000-square-foot facility are operational. Initially the plant will start off with 70 employees when it starts operations late in 2020.

The plant will use a state-of-the-art plastics-to-fuel process that sustainably recycles waste that has reached the end of its useful life — including items that cannot readily be recycled, like plastic film, flexible packing, styrofoam and children’s toys — directly into useful products, like fuels and wax. Ultimately, the outputs of this technology could also be used to produce the feedstocks necessary for manufacturing plastic again, thus creating the world’s first truly circular economy technology for plastics.

Brightmark Energy CEO Bob Powell welcomed attendees to the groundbreaking and cited the need for paradigm-shifting recycling technologies like the process that will be applied in Ashley.

“This sustainable technology directly addresses an acute problem facing our nation: More than 91% of the 33 million tons of plastic produced in the U.S. each year is not recycled,” Powell said. “These products end up sitting in landfills for thousands of years or littering our communities and waterways. This technology offers a tremendous opportunity to combat a major environmental ill and create positive economic value in the process.”

The Ashley facility will be the first of its kind to take mixed-waste, single-use plastics and convert them into usable products at commercial scale. The facility will initially convert approximately 100,000 tons of plastics into more than 18 million gallons a year of ultra-low sulfur diesel and naphtha blend stocks and nearly 6 million gallons a year of commercial grade wax in a process that is expected to be 93% efficient. That’s more plastic than the weight of 5,400 tractor trailers or seven Brooklyn Bridges.

BP will purchase the fuels produced by the facility, and AM WAX will purchase commercial grade waxes produced in the process. State and local government officials, and representatives from fuel offtaker BP were on hand with Brightmark executives as the first shovels hit the site.

“As a global energy business, BP is focused on the dual challenge of meeting society’s rising energy needs while reducing carbon emissions,” said Amy McKerns, director of business development for BP Integrated Supply & Trading. “Our relationship with Brightmark Energy highlights the vital role that innovation and technology will play in driving the transition to a lower-carbon future — and the many and unique opportunities that will come with it.”

State and local support for the project became a critical factor in the decision to build in Ashley. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered up to $900,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. These incentives are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. In addition, Steuben County loaned RES Polyflow, the original developer of the operation, $1.5 million as seed money to gain financing for the project. The low-interest loan has been paid off to Steuben County.

“We’re proud that an innovative company like Brightmark Energy chose northeast Indiana for its first facility using this world-changing technology,” said Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange. “This region offers the career talent and the logistical advantages companies are looking for when siting state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. We welcome Brightmark Energy to Indiana.”

Steuben County Commissioner Lynne Liechty said the project will offer career opportunities to Trine University chemical engineering graduates that were not available before.

Powell said Brightmark chose Ashley because of its willingness to work with the company.

“The community has welcomed us with open arms. They saw the impact certainly globally but definitely locally,” Powell said. “They’ve just really been fantastic with their support from the beginning.”

In April, Brightmark closed a $260 million financing package for the construction of the plant, which includes $185 million in Indiana green bonds. As part of the financing closing, Brightmark became the controlling owner of RES Polyflow, the Ohio-based energy technology company that innovated the process for converting plastics directly into transportation fuel and other products. RES Polyflow started working with Ashley and Steuben County officials on the project in 2015. The project has been in development some 10 years.

Jay Schabel, president of Brightmark Energy’s plastics division, said, “Brightmark plans to develop dozens of additional plastics-to-fuel facilities across the United States, and these new locations will all be anchored by the facility we’re breaking ground on today here in northeast Indiana. We’re pleased to have this opportunity to offer a solution to the complex problems our nation faces around plastic pollution.”

Brightmark Energy develops, owns and operates waste and energy projects that employ technology solutions including plastics to renewable resources and renewable natural gas solutions for its customers and partners. Brightmark’s mission is to create significant long-term value and a positive global impact by delivering waste and energy solutions. Brightmark’s subsidiary, RES Polyflow, designs, manufactures and implements commercial scale energy recovery systems that offer a responsible end of life solution for non-recycled waste plastic. Learn more at http://brightmarkenergy.com.