By Shell Catalysts & Technologies on Apr 5, 2021
Energy producers face the multifaceted problem of decarbonising their business to meet the aims of the energy transition while maintaining profitability to satisfy responsibilities to stakeholders. Broadly, the energy transition signifies a pathway for the energy sector to move away from fossil-based energy sources to zero-carbon alternatives by the middle of this century. These alternative energy sources include biofuels, hydrogen, wind, solar and more. But in many cases, resource holders are constrained by the economic disruptions of 2020, operational and technical challenges as well as an increasing emphasis on cash preservation.
Shell Catalysts & Technologies promotes low capex and phased investment strategies for its customers to approach decarbonisation in a fiscally responsible way. This article will highlight three different examples of these phased investment, low capex strategies.
Biofuels: from co-processing to a dedicated renewable fuel unit
Biofuels will likely play a significant role in meeting the mobility demands of the 21st century while limiting the carbon and greenhouse gas intensity of transport. Many governments around the world are introducing regulations that incentivise the blending of low carbon fuels with conventional petroleum-based fuels to reduce the emissions intensity of combustion. Energy producers can capitalise on these incentives by first investing in co-processing technologies.
Shell’s co-processing technology converts crop oils, such as rapeseed oil, animal fats and waste feedstocks (e.g. used cooking oil), into a range of low carbon fuels including renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuels. Co-processing can handle up to 10% renewable feedstock and can be operationalised without exorbitant cash requirements upfront. This offers energy producers an affordable method by which to diversify their product portfolio towards low carbon alternatives without overhauling their infrastructure. The profits generated by this diversification can then be allocated towards a dedicated unit to scale the production of biofuels with solutions like the Shell Renewable Refining Process (SRRP). SRRP enables the processing of 100% renewable feeds combining proven Shell reactor internals, cutting-edge catalysts and optimal unit configurations to produce high yields of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel.
Revamps: low capex solutions for improving profitability and yields
Refiners need affordable solutions that help them maintain competitiveness and respond to market challenges dynamically. One of these challenges stems from the anticipated doubling of the global economy over the next 20 years1: will twice as much energy be required to power that future? If so, the demands on the energy sector and its resources would be extremely taxing. However, this highlights the importance of improving yields and efficiencies. According to the International Energy Agency, if all opportunities to improve energy efficiencies are taken, the same amount of energy produced today could power the mid-century economy resulting in reductions of emissions and pollution and an increase in energy security.
Shell Catalysts & Technologies works with its customers to conduct energy efficiency assessments that identify potential problem areas and opportunities for efficiency improvements. These insights depend on the drivers and constraints of each producer and each site individually and are the result of case-by-case analysis. Through collaborative fact-finding and science-based investigation, our team of refining technology experts can help energy producers make the most of their investments. One recommended route to address margin improvement might be through revamp projects that address inefficiencies and bottlenecks. Revamping is a low-cost approach to replacing existing equipment with state-of-the-art technologies in order to improve refining economics.
Learn more about Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ revamps methodology by visiting our Revamps Knowledge Hub. Download scenarios to learn how retrofitting low capex technologies can enhance yields and margins across technology areas like reactor internals, diesel hydrotreating, EO/EG production and FCC-PT/FCC units.
Blue hydrogen: affordable production processes for natural gas producers and refiners
Refiners and chemical plants are under pressure to decarbonise existing operations and unlock value in natural gas that complies with the aims of the energy transition. One high potential avenue to accomplish this is by utilising existing infrastructure to manufacture hydrogen fuel. A vast majority of hydrogen production at present results from hydrogen manufacturing units refineries and chemical facilities that are reliant on H2 to produce their product slate. However, if proper carbon capture and storage technologies are not applied, this can still be a very carbon intensive process.
Shell Catalysts & Technologies offers resource holders an affordable blue hydrogen production process that utilises proven carbon capture technologies. The Shell Blue Hydrogen Process integrates Shell gas partial oxidation and ADIP ULTRA technologies which offers key advantages over autothermal reforming, including a 10–25% lower levelised cost of hydrogen, a 20% lower capital expenditure, a 35% lower operating expenditure (excluding natural gas feedstock price), >99% CO2 captured and overall process simplicity. Read the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process Q&A article showcasing the expertise of two of our blue hydrogen technology leaders to learn more.
Increasing investments in decarbonisation to Make Every Molecule Matter
Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ commitment to Make Every Molecule Matter goes beyond molecular science, catalyst efficiencies and emissions reduction. In order to power progress throughout the energy transition, producers need to leverage their technology to its fullest extent and approach decarbonisation with strategic and timely investments. To learn more about this commitment and our organisational philosophy, subscribe to our monthly energy transition newsletter.
1 Motherway, Brian. “Energy Efficiency Is the First Fuel, and Demand for It Needs to Grow – Analysis.” IEA, International Energy Agency, 19 Dec. 2019, www.iea.org/commentaries/energy-efficiency-is-the-first-fuel-and-demand-for-it-needs-to-grow.