Kevin Haas Rock River Current
Monarch Energy Considers $1B Rockford Project To Produce Sustainable Aviation Fuel Near Airport
April 12, 2024
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  • A California-based green hydrogen project developer met with local and federal officials in Rockford on Friday to discuss a potential $1 billion investment to produce sustainable aviation fuel for customers at the Chicago Rockford International Airport and beyond.

    U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth visited Rockford on Friday for the meeting with Monarch Energy and officials with R1 Regional Planning Council to discuss the project, which hinges in part on the Department of Treasury and the Department of Energy allowing for the hydrogen energy Monarch produces to qualify for the Section 45V tax credit.

    The departments of Energy and Treasury are in rulemaking right now as to what types of sources of energy will qualify as renewable, Duckworth said.

    “After this, I’m going to go back and push really hard on the Department of Energy, on Treasury, on the White House, to make sure that we get an outcome that is going to be beneficial to this part of Illinois,” Duckworth said in a news conference with Mayor Tom McNamara and R1 Executive Director Mike Dunn Jr. “We need to fight to make sure that what we have is counted toward those tax credits so that an organization like Monarch can make those needed investments that’s going to bring as much as $1 billion investments into this region.”

    The company is considering part of a 1,400-acre site south of the airport near the county line for its more than $1 billion investment. It would use carbon dioxide from nearby landfills as part of a process to create sustainable jet fuel.

    Charles Koontz, co-founder and chief operating officer of Monarch Energy, outlined some of the reasons why Rockford is a fitting location.

    “World class electrical infrastructure. A progressive and relatively clean electric grid and we’ve got a community around here both with labor as well as the water utility and the water disposal utility that are phenomenally progressive and easy to work with,” he said in an interview with the Rock River Current after Duckworth’s news conference. “Rockford is a community that knows how to get things built. It’s a great place to build projects.”

    The company would use carbon dioxide byproduct from ethanol or from the decomposition of materials in a nearby landfill as part of its process to make sustainable aviation fuel, Koontz said.

    “The airport’s tenants, UPS and Amazon, they have green corporate mandates to lower their carbon emissions,” Dunn Jr. said. “It really will give Chicago Rockford International Airport a competitive advantage and keep Chicago Rockford International Airport in a leadership position that they have a source of (sustainable aviation fuel).”

    The sustainable aviation fuel gets substituted up to 50% blend into Jet A1 fuel, a kerosene grade fuel used on aircraft, to help aviation customers reduce carbon emissions.

    “Whether it’s freight airlines that operate out of the Rockford airport, or Allegiant, or it could go to O’Hare or Midway as well,” Koontz said.

    The project would create hundreds of construction jobs and ongoing professional staff of roughly 50 once up and running. It could also spur further development.

    Dunn Jr. said R1 has been working since 2014 on plans to bring development to the 1,400-acre site south of the airport. Now, it’s starting to see interest. But it needs a major project like Monarch to spur the growth at the rest of the site.

    “It’s a tough site. It’s wet, it’s got power issues, but there is water and sewer,” Dunn said. “We need the first person to come in and spend money to justify putting in close to $90 million in public infrastructure that government has to put in to bring the 1,400 acres online.”

    It’s a key strategic location that could turn into a top five industrial site in the state, Dunn said. That’s because it’s in a Foreign Trade Zone, it’s near a fast-growing cargo airport, the short-line railroad leftover from Camp Grant connects to four different Class 1 railroads and it’s near four interstates: 43, 39, 90 and 88.

    “That will be a very competitive site to the private sector for future industrial growth that’s connected to the airport,” Dunn said.

    Duckworth said the state and this region is uniquely positioned to compete for green energy development because of its water infrastructure, electric grid and labor pool.

    “We’re the future for the nation and we’re the future for the world, and it sits right here in Illinois and it sits right here in this area,” Duckworth said. “We’re going to be the center of the nation when it comes to a greener future for our kids and our grandkids, but it’s also about the economic revitalization of this nation, and it begins here in the Midwest.”