FedEx Goes the Wooden Way

In its Global Citizen Report 2016, the package delivery company announces utilizing wood-based biofuel in its long-term attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project, based on a close cooperation with Fort Collins, Colorado-headquartered producer Red Rock Biofuels, will take off in 2017.

Red Rock Biofuels chief Terry Kulesa  -  courtesy Red Rock
Red Rock Biofuels chief Terry Kulesa - courtesy Red Rock

Then, Red Rock will pump the first six million gallons (almost 23 million liters) of woody biomass converted jet fuel into the FedEx tanks at Oakland airport to blend them with other kerosene. “We’re contracted with FedEx to supply 3 million gallons of biofuel a year. This will be blended to provide 6 million gallons of alternative jet fuel annually between 2017 and 2024,” enthuses Terry Kulesa, co-founder and CEO of Red Rock Biofuels.

A fire sparked an idea
Providing the production plant with sufficient raw material to fulfill the contractual obligation doesn’t seem to be any problem since a sawmill company in Lakeview, Oregon that manages a 100,000-acre forest will supply the wood waste. 
The idea of converting dead trees, wood waste and forest debris into jet fuel came to Terry’s mind about four years ago when dense smoke caused by a nearby forest fire almost suffocated people at Fort Collins. “It was so bad my kids couldn’t go to summer camp. So, I asked my director of engineering, what can we do with the wood waste contributing to these fires that are turning our forests into moonscapes? And we came up with jet fuel.”

FedEx Oakland‘s CEO Robin Van Galder  -  credit FedEx
FedEx Oakland‘s CEO Robin Van Galder - credit FedEx

Ambitious CO2 targets
Next, Red Rock approached FedEx, whose environmental target is to achieve 30 percent alternative jet fuel by 2030, lowering greenhouse gas emissions of their freighter fleet considerably. “They were very receptive,” Terry recalls. “FedEx is saying to airlines and the financial sector that this is the future for aviation fuel.”
Now after the deal has been inked, Red Rock said it intends building about ten more production plants in the near future to convert dead wood into a source of environmentally friendly energy.  
FedEx’s Oakland hub can be considered a pioneer in environmental projects. Eleven years ago, 5,800 solar panels covering a roof space of 75,000 square feet (23,000 sqm) located at the sorting centre’s roof were connected to the network. Meanwhile, “47 percent of our energy comes from alternative sources,” states Oakland Hub Director, Robin Van Galder. Soon, biofuel stemming from wood will complement the efforts. 

Cutting-edge ecologic projects rank high on OAL’s agenda
Oakland is an important link within the network chain of FedEx Express proven by the roughly 300,000 packages sorted there each night. In total, 35 freighters and up to 170 trucks ensure the distribution of the goods every single day.
The station also participates in the FedEx Fuel Sense campaign when loading aircraft or handling packages. Final word from manager Van Galder: “It makes sense to test and implement cutting-edge things here that set standards for other FedEx locations and airlines.” Like converting wood into kerosene. 

Heiner Siegmund

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