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How Shell Catalysts & Technologies support more and cleaner energy with low carbon fuels

Low carbon fuels are blended with gasoline and diesel to decrease the environmental impact of mobility.

By Shell Catalysts & Technologies on Jan 4, 2021

The energy transition is underway and companies all over the world are penning goals to reduce emissions and increase sustainability. Based on reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming”.1 In order to mitigate these threats, the globe’s energy system needs to transform, decarbonise and make use of low carbon fuels.

Although no one solution will be sufficient, increased reliance on low carbon fuels will likely be required in order to meet nations’ increasingly stringent decarbonisation targets and protect our planet’s future.

What is the benefit of low carbon fuels? In the transport sector, low carbon fuels are blended with gasoline and diesel to decrease the environmental impact of mobility. As such, Shell Catalysts & Technologies is investing heavily in research and development of more sustainable fuels and offers many associated technologies to its energy partners.

Learn more about what energy transition means to Shell Catalysts & Technologies

What is low carbon fuel?

In a world with an increasing population and rising energy consumption, energy producers must find ways to meet growing demand while also prioritising decarbonisation. To meet these challenges, energy producers are investing in technologies that produce fewer resultant emissions.

These technologies, like waste-to-fuel or biofuel solutions, emit less CO2 into the atmosphere during the energy creation process.

Shell Catalysts & Technologies offers a range of biofuel solutions and processes that can help energy producers meet future energy demand while limiting harmful emissions and environmental impact.

Shell Renewable Refining Process

Shell Catalysts & Technologies has helped develop the Shell Renewable Refining Process (SRRP). This process creates renewable diesel and biojet fuels more sustainably. With an increasing commitment from governments across the world for low emission mobility, SRRP can help energy producers meet renewable mandates and regulations.

SRRP’s unique pretreatment filter add-on helps reduce pretreat unit size with minimal associated capital requirements. It allows wide feed flexibility including tallow, used cooking oil, soy, DCO and canola/rapeseed oil.

Class-leading isomerisation catalysts enable very high yields, a high biojet ratio, better cold flow properties and low naphtha yield. Carbon capture and storage modules can also be leveraged to responsibly store unavoidable CO2 emissions. Shell Catalysts & Technologies offers masterplanning services to effectively integrate SRRP with existing processes to optimise configuration and decarbonise operations.

Co-processing of biofuels

Energy producers may be interested in making biodiesel but would prefer taking a phased investment approach rather than investing in SRRP. Co-processing of renewable feeds in existing hydroprocessing units can be a near term, low capex option for energy producers to blend biofuels.

Due to reduced consumer demand for carbon-intensive fuels stemming from 2020 pandemic impacts, some energy producers have spare production capacity that can be utilised with co-processing.

Typically, up to 10% of a renewable feed can be processed without significant operational or hardware changes. Co-processing can provide a low capex route for reducing carbon intensity and meeting blending obligations. Shell’s Rheinland refinery produces enough low carbon diesel to fill 600,000 vehicles a year, abating 55 kiloton of CO2 in the process.

Explore advanced biofuel catalysts developed for IH2 technology

Shell Fiber Conversion Technology

Most biofuels are produced from agricultural crops and are called conventional biofuels. One promising conventional biofuel stems from the production of ethanol through the fermentation of sugars or starches like sugarcane, maize or wheat.

The ethanol output can then be blended with gasoline to create more sustainable flex fuels like E85. E85, a high-level gasoline-ethanol blend, decreases the emissions of CO2, as well as the emissions of many harmful toxins, such as benzene, compared to gasoline, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.2

To supply a growing ethanol market, producers can use solutions like Shell Fiber Conversion Technology to increase margins sustainably by creating higher-value products like enhanced-protein animal feed, distillers corn oil (DCO) and increased ethanol fuel. By applying this technology, ethanol producers can capitalise on:

  • uplift in wet-cake value by increased protein concentration
  • increase in DCO production by 100%
  • increase in produced ethanol by ~10%
  • benefits from low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) and renewable identification numbers (RIN) credits.

Shell Catalysts & Technologies is currently producing one of the lowest-CO2 biofuels available today through Raízen which makes ethanol from sugar cane. Raízen, a joint venture with the biofuels company Cosan, has a production capacity of around 2 billion litres of ethanol per year. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol can reduce CO2 emissions by 70% when compared with petrol.

Learning to navigate the energy transition

As an owner-operator, Shell is one of the largest blenders and distributors of biofuels in the world. In 2019, we blended around 10.1 billion litres of biofuel in our gasoline and diesel blends worldwide. Shell Catalysts & Technologies is providing low carbon fuel production technologies to Shell and third-party customers to help reduce their carbon footprint from transportation fuels.

1 IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.

2 “Ethanol Vehicle Emissions.” Alternative Fuels Data Center: Ethanol Vehicle Emissions, U.S. Department of Energy, afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/flexible_fuel_emissions.html.

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