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Sustainable jet fuel developer, Twelve, breaks ground in Grant County

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | July 11, 2023 5:47 PM

MOSES LAKE — Production could begin by spring 2024 at a facility designed to reuse carbon dioxide and water to produce other products, in this instance jet fuel. Governor Jay Inslee joined the founders of Twelve at a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility on Wheeler Road in Moses Lake Tuesday.

“The technology breaks apart (carbon dioxide) 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,” said Twelve Cofounder and CEO Nicholas Flanders said.

A bipartisan effort brought the plant to Grant County with support from all three of the area's Republican state legislators as well as Inslee, a Democrat. The plant is expected to provide jobs to the area with around 100 provided during the construction phase and an unknown number of jobs coming as the plant opens. The plant will produce a fuel that will power aircraft, including those of Washington-based Alaska Airlines, if the process of making it can be scaled up to effectively recycle CO2.

Cofounder and Chief Technical Officer Kendra Kuhl said 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 cofounder, 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.

The Moses Lake project was unveiled by Flanders at the Paris Air Show in company with Inslee, and Inslee was the main speaker Tuesday.

“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. 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.

Greg Dicosala, Twelve vice president of capital projects and operations, said company officials are still working on the permitting process, but hope to start construction sometime in August. Two buildings on the site will be remodeled, he said. The goal is to start production next spring.

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.”

Cheryl Schweizer may be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Twelve cofounder and CEO Nicholas Flanders, right, talks with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee during the groundbreaking for the company’s new Moses Lake facility Tuesday.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

From left, Gov. Jay Inslee with Twelve cofounders Nicholas Flanders, Etosha Cave and Kendra Kuhl Tuesday.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Twelve cofounder Nicholas Flanders talks about the company at the site of the company’s new facility in Moses Lake.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Governor Jay Inslee was the main speaker at the Twelve groundbreaking.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Senator Judy Warnick said working out the conditions that allowed the Twelve company to build its facility in Moses Lake was a bipartisan effort. She also said she was excited to see that two of the founders of Twelve are women.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Twelve cofounders and government officials posed for a picture at the company’s groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.