Changbei Natural Gas Processing Facility

How Shell’s Renewable Refining Process can help reduce transportation emissions with low carbon fuels

Learn how the Shell Renewable Refining Process (SRRP) can help refiners affordably produce low carbon fuels for cleaner mobility.

By Shell Catalysts & Technologies on Feb 12, 2021

Two commonly made projections highlight the intense need for lower-carbon transportation fuels. First, the U.N. projects that the global population will approach 11 billion people by the end of the century. Second, vehicle ownership across the globe has been projected to double from one billion to two billion by 2040. These forecasts both suggest that if status quo transportation technologies were to continue without step-change improvements to fuel efficiency or emissions compliance, the mobility sector would increase atmospheric CO2 levels greatly and potentially damage air quality. For reference, the United States Environmental Protection Agency confirms that transportation emissions are already the largest contributor to total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Learn more about Shell Catalyst & Technologies' gas processing technology

This is why Shell Catalysts & Technologies has invested heavily into processes like the Shell Renewable Refining Process (SRRP). By reliably producing low carbon fuels from feeds of fats, oils and greases (FOG) such as tallow, soybean oil, distillers corn oil and used cooking oil, energy producers can meet their renewables mandates and lower the carbon intensity of the products they sell.

Meeting renewables mandates

Refiners are facing common challenges across the world. There is a declining demand for petroleum-based products in many regions. Legislation is being introduced in numerous markets that dictates a higher percentage share of renewable energy in transportation fuels. Europe’s RED II is one example. This category of legislation addresses the need to reduce the carbon intensity of transport fuels and refiners will need to adopt a phased investment strategy over the next two to three decades to avoid a regret investment.

This phased approach might start by co-processing up to 10% renewable feedstock which can be achieved with low capital expenditure. Many European refineries have the spare capacity for this already. The profits co-processing generates could then be leveraged to fund a dedicated unit for processing 100% biofeeds utilising the Shell Renewable Refining Process. There is significant upside for early adopters of dedicated units including a much higher market value for biofuels compared to conventional diesel and securing long-term access to renewable feeds.

How biofuels support cleaner mobility

Biofuels are already making a positive impact on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that result from the transportation sector. Based on a lifecycle analysis by the United States Department of Energy, corn-based ethanol – a type of renewable transportation fuel – reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34% compared to gasoline and diesel. Lifecycle analyses are used to assess the total greenhouse gas emissions impact of a fuel across its entire supply chain including both stages of production and use. Realising the decarbonisation benefits of blended fuels made up of petroleum and less carbon-intense biofuels is an important step towards a more and cleaner energy future.

To learn more about the trends and advantages of biofuels, download our recently published biofuels energy transition report.

Advantages of SRRP for energy producers

The Shell Renewable Refining Process is an end-to-end solution for producing low carbon fuels. See how the process breaks down into three key stages:

Pretreatment

Shell’s unique pretreatment add-ons help reduce traditional pretreat unit size and costs which translates to lowered capital expenditure requirements. Low capex requirements when adopting new technologies are critical due to emphasis on cash preservation during recovery from the pandemic.

First Stage

The first stage involves removal of residual contaminants left over from the Pretreat as well as hydrogenation and hydrodeoxygenation reactions which saturate the olefins and remove the oxygen. It can therefore process a wide range of feeds with varying contaminant and olefinic contents. These reactions transform the biomass into waxy, long chain, n-paraffins boiling in the diesel range. The catalyst technology and internals used in this stage are optimised for maximum product yield, stable operation and can be tuned to the desired level of hydrogen consumption as it relates to minimisation of CO2 and CO production.

Second Stage

The second and final stage performs a hydroisomerization step to improve cold flow properties of the first-stage product. This produces renewable diesel that will qualify for any diesel market in any season. It uses best-in-class dewax catalysts to maximise diesel or jet yields, and minimise naphtha and light ends. It also provides flexibility to tailor the product slate to either renewable diesel or sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) depending on market demand.

By introducing innovative technologies and strategies in each stage that are backed by decades of R&D, SRRP can yield energy producers higher quality low carbon fuels. Depending on a refiner’s specific circumstances and objectives, there could be potential for co-investment to further reduce capex and increase shared desire for success between the third-party and Shell. SRRP can be integrated into existing plant infrastructure in an optimised configuration to maximise re-use of existing assets and reduce costs.

Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ commitment to Make Every Molecule Matter

Solutions like SRRP exemplify our commitment to Make Every Molecule Matter. We work with energy producers, petrochemical manufacturers and industrial organisations to leverage the best available science and technology to decarbonise operations and product mixes. SRRP can help energy producers specifically to meet their renewable mandates and blending obligations while contributing to a more sustainable mobility future.

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