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Gillian Harrison - Whitefox


A Year of Whitefox – Reflecting on 2023 with Gillian Harrison

The closing message from COP28 was clear. We need to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.” This has marked the start of a new era. We need to ramp up investment in all parts of the value chain; from making systems and production processes as efficient and sustainable as possible, to exploring new forms of energy that can be produced locally for regional needs and minimise wastefulness in our resources. The challenge is immense, the opportunity is incredibly exciting, and we have a global mandate for change.

As I reflect on 2023, I am humbled by the great work that our team has done and the collaborative work with producers and partners to make a positive impact on improving the sustainability of ethanol and other industrial processes. We have had to navigate supply chain pressures, a buoyant labour market and increasing costs, which has not been easy and we’re grateful to our customers, and suppliers who have been understanding on project delivery challenges.  

We end the year stronger and will take many learnings into 2024 as to how to further develop our team and approach and provide great customer service. A few of our achievements below show how it is possible to make major improvements to reducing energy, water and carbon emissions from industry, at the centre of which is collaboration, innovation and a shared vision with our customers and partners. 

Leveraging Ethanol’s Potential Innovation Together with our Customers

Pioneering European Membrane Technology with BGW 

In August we started up our first Whitefox ICE XL project in Europe. The system uses Whitefox’s membranes as the sole dehydration technology. It’s designed to take feed streams with as little as 50% ethanol and dehydrate to final product purity, as high as 99.9+%, making it a gamechanger for ethanol production. The Whitefox membrane section is sized for 579m3/day of ethanol, our largest European installation. BGW is based in Poland and targets reducing its energy bills, improving its carbon score, and increasing diversity of its products while increasing capacity; the Whitefox system helps achieve all these goals. Our team did a great job together with the BGW operators at start-up and are ready for a second plant start-up with BGW in the new year.

Whitefox - Striding Towards Net Zero Distillation with Western Plains

Striding Towards Net Zero Distillation with Western Plains 

We completed engineering at Western Plains in Kansas for our first Whitefox ICE-XL installation in the USA and concrete is now being poured at site. Set to start-up in 2024, this project will see 50% energy and water savings in its first phase, a major step in helping the ethanol industry reach its Net Zero goal. This innovative solution replaces molecular sieves with our advanced membranes. It underscores our commitment to helping the industry produce low carbon ethanol, opening opportunities for ethanol to act as a sustainable feedstock for SAF or green chemicals, as well as road transportation. 

Advancing Energy Savings with Redfield Energy

Furthering our stride in the ethanol industry, we secured our first contract for our new Whitefox ICE Plus product with Redfield Energy. This new solution works alongside the existing molecular sieve allowing 30% steam savings. It’s a testament to what is possible when we combine technical innovation with customer vision and collaboration.

Breaking Ground in Canada with IGPC

This year we kicked-off of our first Canadian project for a Whitefox ICE® solution, in collaboration with IGPC. With this, IGPC will increase their capacity of fuel grade ethanol by more than 10% and reduce their energy consumption by around 1,000 btu/gallon of ethanol. As Canada looks to increase the proportion of ethanol in its fuel by 2030 this project helps to deliver to that local demand.

Global Impact on Emissions Reduction with Local Solutions 

By the end of 2023, we have 17 installations operating globally and collectively they have produced 2 billion litres of ethanol and saved the equivalent in carbon emissions to having planted a forest of over 4 million trees. I am very proud of what our team has achieved, especially given how difficult it is to introduce innovation into industrial production facilities. With a further 7 projects under way, our customers will continue to save increasing amounts of carbon emissions in 2024, helping to achieve the goals set at COP28.

Surpassing a 5% market share in the U.S., we are now aiming to replicate this success in Brazil and Europe. Our localised approach involves spending time with boots on the ground in these locations. We appreciate the importance of understanding unique market needs, and establishing experienced local teams and partnerships.

Visiting ethanol producers in Brazil; our solutions reduce volume of Bagasse biomass for production, producing more green electricity and making more ethanol

Visiting ethanol producers in Brazil; our solutions reduce volume of Bagasse biomass for production, producing more green electricity and making more ethanol. 

The Whitefox Pledge

Thriving Through Collaborative Partnerships 

Our journey is defined by the relationships we build, and 2023 has been rich with collaborative endeavours. Ongoing improvements and innovations are a testament to the enduring partnerships we forge, embodied by our approach to longstanding customer relationships, as set out in The Whitefox Pledge

Innovate UK has supported additional internal investment in automation of controls and data acquisition, new equipment designs, and improvements to our Whitefox ICE XL solution.

Our commitment to education extends beyond projects to academic sponsorships. By partnering with the University of Calgary, we support Engineering Design groups on practical solutions in ClimateTech. Nurturing future students in STEM is essential, and it becomes a learning experience for our engineers as well as the students.

Growing a Global Team

Our commitment to people and culture stands as a testament to our values. In 2023, we boosted our team across the US and Calgary. We also strengthened our Board by appointing Kathie Child-Villiers as our Chair, Kathie brings decades of experience in renewable energy and the international financial markets and I value the insights she has already brought to the Board.

Our focus on continuous development, purpose, and team, ensures that our growth is not just quantitative but deeply rooted in a shared ethos.  In 2024 we will further grow our team in all regions. Our initial installations nearly two decades ago were in Europe’s pharmaceutical space, which we then adapted to the US Biofuels sector. With the BGW installation, it’s exciting to come full circle and bring our advanced membrane solutions to European bioethanol plants. Given the level of engagement, we will also be growing our European based engineering team in 2024.  

The Increasing Role of Ethanol and Beyond

In addition to expanding the reach of our ICE solutions to improving the sustainability and affordability of ethanol, we are investing in the development of new applications. Membranes are the most efficient way to separate molecules, given that 15% of energy in the US and Europe is used in process separation steps, it is no surprise that we are regularly approached to come up with advanced solutions beyond ethanol. 

The challenge set by COP28 will see low-carbon ethanol playing a larger role than ever before in the global bioeconomy and production of clean, renewable goods. Whether it’s through light-duty fuel, Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or green chemicals, the opportunities seem endless. Whitefox is focused on enabling this evolution through providing advanced membrane-based solutions and innovative engineering to support this growth together with ethanol producers. 

We have advocated throughout the year for the important role sustainable ethanol can and should play in helping the world move away from its dependence on the barrel of oil.  Through the collaborations we have had this year, the projects we are working on and the level of engagement from industry, I end the year with optimism about the journey to decarbonize our global industrial and energy platforms.

Gillian Harrison, CEO, Whitefox Technologies