Coworkers in a discussion around the IH² samples.

IH²: The Future of Transportation Fuel Technology

Shell Catalysts & Technologies is working with strategic partners to deploy IH² technology and produce lower-carbon transportation fuels from agricultural waste.

By Daniel Shiosaki, IH² Market Manager on Jun 22, 2020

Shell Catalysts & Technologies plans to thrive through the energy transition. Our long-term strategy for lowering the carbon intensity of the energy products we sell includes developing advanced biofuels. Our aim for successfully producing advanced biofuels is to transform a number of organic wastes into transport fuel using IH2 technology.1

IH2 is a conversion technology for biomass, conceived by U.S.-based Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and further developed in collaboration with Shell Catalysts & Technologies, which owns the exclusive rights to worldwide licensing and deployment.

Through IH2 technology, we’re seeking to demonstrate that agricultural waste can be converted into lower-carbon transportation fuels, including petrol, diesel, and jet fuel, at a larger scale.

Once commercially proven, IH2 technology could reduce the net carbon footprint of the fuel we sell to our customers. In a future where advanced biofuels are widely adopted by consumers, IH2 technology may also be able to contribute to organisations and governments reaching their goals for carbon emissions reduction

Learn More About Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ Waste to Fuel IH² Demonstration Facility

Reducing the Net Carbon Footprint of Transportation Fuels

Shell’s Net Carbon Footprint ambition aims to reduce the carbon intensity of our energy products, in step with society’s progress towards addressing climate change and meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement. The goal of the Agreement is to limit the global average temperature rise this century to below 1.5°C from preindustrial levels.

Around the world, governments are issuing mandates to reduce carbon emissions:

Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

The RFS is a program created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand the country’s renewable fuels sector, and reduce reliance on imported oil.2

Compared with the RFS baseline of CO2 emissions for gasoline, the IH2 project base case (char burned for electricity generation) has up to 73% lower GHG emissions. This GHG saving is higher than the 60% threshold for cellulosic fuels, or the 50% threshold for the advanced & biodiesel fuel category defined by the RFS.

Renewable Energy Directive II (RED-II)

RED-II outlines the E.U.’s target for renewable energy sources consumption to 32% by 2030. Compared with the RED-II baseline of CO2 emissions for biofuels, the IH2 project base case (char burned for electricity generation) has up to 73% lower GHG emissions. This GHG saving is higher than the 65% requirement for advanced biofuel dictated by RED-II, effective from 2021.3

Our researchers are working to develop IH2 technology on a commercial scale and to change the mix of the energy products we sell over time. Biofuels and renewable energy technology can be foundational innovations to meet future mobility demands with lower carbon intensity.

Working with Global Partners to Develop and Deploy IH2

Through a continuous catalytic thermochemical process, IH2 technology provides up to a 92% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to fossil-fuels equivalents. It also provides up to 76% bio-energy recovery from organic wastes. The energy recovery from IH2 can be three to four times greater than many other waste-to-energy products, including many second-generation ethanol products.

In 2017, we opened a demonstration facility at Shell’s Technology Centre in Bangalore, India with a nameplate capacity of 5 t/d biomass conversion. The first hydrocarbon product was produced in 2017. Currently, Shell Catalysts & Technologies is working with select companies to bring this technology to market. Our strategic relationships extend across the globe:

  • Gas Technology Institute (GTI), based in Illinois, is the developer of IH2 technology. In 2012, GTI commissioned a successful pilot-scale 50 kg/d IH2 plant that has been a key milestone in the technology’s scale-up and commercialisation.
  • Zeton, based in Ontario, Canada, and Enschede, The Netherlands, brings expertise in modular process plant design and construction.
  • KBR, based in Houston, Texas, is the exclusive front-end engineering design (FEED) contractor.

The individual elements of the IH2 process are available at a commercial scale, which minimises design and operational risks, as well as to position the technology for rapid implementation. The first commercial application will process woody biomass.

In the future, we aim to advance this conversion technology to be able to use agricultural residues and to process sorted, municipal solid feedstocks as well.

Learn More About Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion Technology

Lowering Carbon Emissions Now

Shell has set short-term targets to lower our net carbon footprint. As of April 2020, Shell is on track to reduce our Net Carbon Footprint by 2–3% by the end of 2021. Shell aims to reduce emissions by 3–4% by the end of 2022. To reinforce the importance of delivering on this commitment, senior executives’ remuneration was linked to the delivery of short-term Net Carbon Footprint targets and growth in new energy businesses.

For these near-term solutions, natural gas technologies can help deliver lower carbon emissions in our energy products portfolio. We are investing in renewable natural gas, or biomethane, for use in natural gas fuelled vehicles in the U.S. When used as transportation fuel, natural gas is a lower-emissions alternative to diesel or heavy fuel oil.

Shell is looking to accelerate the pace of change, as society changes its energy demands. We have an ambition to include more renewables into our product mix and to meet Shell’s long-term ambition of becoming a net-zero emissions energy business.

Our work with customers to deploy IH2 technology is ongoing. Since 2014, more than 10 FEED studies have been conducted worldwide to assess preliminary commercial deployment opportunities for IH2 technology.

In collaboration with the companies that are a part of our strategic relationships, Shell Catalysts & Technologies is poised to contribute to the design of specific plants when the technology is ready to scale up.

In a future of more and cleaner energy, IH2 has the potential to play a foundational role. IH2 technology produces hydrocarbon fuels that are compatible with conventional fuel blending practices.

Diesel produced from IH2 technology burns with lower nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbon, and particulate emissions than fossil fuel equivalents. When it is commercially developed and scaled, the produced biofuels can greatly reduce the carbon emissions of future transportation fuels.

Download the Fact Sheet to Learn More About the Primary Elements of the IH2 Process

1Disclaimer: Please note that the values in this article are specific to the location, feedstock and configuration of the IH²® project studied. For each new project aiming at the production of advanced biofuels using IH²® technology a new evaluation will have to be carried out, preferably by an external accreditation agency, to qualify the products in terms of greenhouse gas reduction and/or CO₂ footprint to ensure the hydrocarbon streams fulfill local/market requirements in agreement with the client’s ambition and project targets. With the recent optimization of the IH² process — including improvements in catalyst performance and reduction in hydrogen consumption — a further increase in the GHG reduction values is anticipated.

2https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program

3https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/jec/renewable-energy-recast-2030-red-ii