Investment in renewable and low-carbon energy

Raízen plant spotlight: Low-carbon opportunities in second-generation biofuels

Explore some of the technologies driving Raízen forward and the potential benefits of first- and second-generation biofuel production.

By Shell Catalysts & Technologies on Nov 18, 2021

Raízen, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Brazilian energy producer Cosan, was established in 2010 as part of Shell’s continuous investment in renewable and low-carbon energy. To further extend its production in renewable energy, Raízen has recently announced plans to invest in a new second-generation ethanol (E2G) plant.1

Raízen is a leading producer of sugarcane, ethanol and bioenergy in Brazil, and hosts one of the world’s first waste-to-ethanol plants. It is also home to the fourth-largest renewable natural gas (RNG) facility in the world. If Raízen were a country, it would be the fifth-largest producer of bioethanol in the world.

A key driver behind the success at Raízen is efficient second-generation ethanol (E2G) production. Raízen optimises its ethanol production process by treating sugarcane bagasse (a type of sugarcane juice) and straw to create E2G.

The E2G treatment process reduces waste and increases productivity at Raízen by up to 50% through the reuse of byproducts. This advanced biofuel produces 97% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline.2

Shell’s ongoing investment in renewable energy technologies is on full display in Raízen’s continuous growth. Explore some of the technologies driving this initiative forward and discover the potential benefits of first- and second-generation biofuel production for refiners.

Energy producers are turning to biofuels as they strive toward emissions mitigation through low-carbon fuels. Biofuels production presents a practical pathway for energy producers to meet the challenges of the energy transition. Compared to conventional fuels, biofuels have higher market value and early adopters can secure long-term access to renewable feeds.

Drivers of biofuel technology and development

Energy producers are turning to biofuels as they strive toward emissions mitigation through low-carbon fuels. Biofuels production presents a practical pathway for energy producers to meet the challenges of the energy transition. Compared to conventional fuels, biofuels have higher market value and early adopters can secure long-term access to renewable feeds. 

Changing energy demands have paved the way for a surge in biofuel technology and other lower-carbon energy systems. For example, many U.S. refiners are focusing on mandates such as the Renewable Fuel Standard – which is changing the blending requirements of renewable fuel and increasing the required percentage of renewable fuel mixed with conventional transportation fuel.3

In California, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 20% by 2030 and to incentivize an increasing range of low-carbon and renewable fuel alternatives.4

Refiners in the European Union have a similar mandate with the Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II). The directive requires energy producers to supply a minimum of 14% of the energy consumed in road and rail transport by 2030 as renewable energy.5

Shell Catalysts & Technologies is focused on helping customers achieve their goals of producing lower-carbon fuels in line with these directives and to drive the advancement of biofuel production technologies.

First-generation biofuels

First-generation biofuels are produced primarily from food crops while second-generation biofuels come from non-food sources. Energy producers are turning to first-generation biofuel production to supply sustainable, low-carbon fuel.

Shell Fiber Conversion Technology

Producers of first-generation ethanol can potentially increase margins through higher-value products with Shell Fiber Conversion Technology. This technology enables ethanol producers to shift their product portfolio and increase profitability. It utilises powerful, low-temperature recyclable acid to open lignocellulosic biomass, or plant dry matter, to unlock plant sugars. This allows for high yield conversion without downstream fouling.

Shell Catalysts & Technologies is constantly iterating, developing and evolving technology solutions that create various pathways and bring value to refiners. This includes developing technologies to manage challenging feedstocks that can help energy producers keep pace with dynamic and complex market conditions.

Ramping up second-generation biofuel production

Energy producers can adopt a phased investment approach to gradually transform existing refining infrastructure to produce first- and second-generation biofuels. The benefit of second-generation biofuels is that they do not require arable land and do not compete with food production. Some common examples of second-generation biofuels include used cooking oil, agricultural residue and non-edible food byproducts.6

Shell recently announced plans to build a new 820,000-tonnes-a-year biofuels facility in the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The Rotterdam facility will produce low-carbon fuels including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and biodiesel. After a comprehensive assessment of available technologies, Shell selected the Shell Renewable Refining Process (SRRP) as the technology of choice for the biofuels facility.

SRRP is a hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) technology that converts 100% biofeeds into renewable diesel and jet fuel. SRRP has advantages over single-stage units including:

  • Higher renewable diesel and SAF yields;
  • Longer cycles with slower yield decline;
  • Product slate flexibility and
  • Integration capabilities that can help to future-proof investments.

At Shell Catalysts & Technologies, our continued focus on advancing low-carbon fuel technology is part of our effort to help Shell meet its target of becoming a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 and to push the Netherlands and Europe forward in their energy transition journeys.

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For further information regarding biofuels and Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ solutions, read our biofuels report. Discover how energy producers can meet the growing demand for sustainable biofuels and capitalise on decarbonisation initiatives.

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1 “Raízen reveals plans for second cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil,” Bioenergy International, 1 July 2021, https://bioenergyinternational.com/biofuels-oils/raizen-reveals-plans-for-second-cellulosic-ethanol-plant-in-brazil.
2 “Renewables”, Raízen, accessed 26 Oct. 2021, https://www.raizen.com.br/en/our-business/renewables#ethanol.
3 “Renewable Fuel Standard”, Alternative Fuels Data Center, accessed 26 Oct. 2021, https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/RFS.html.
4 “Low Carbon Fuel Standard”, Alternative Fuels Data Center, accessed 26 Oct. 2021, https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/6308.
5 “Renewable Energy – Recast to 2030 (RED II)”, EU Science Hub, 23 July 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/jec/renewable-energy-recast-2030-red-ii
6 Yaser Dahman, “An introduction to biofuels, foods, livestock, and the environment”, Biomass, Biopolymer-Based Materials and Bioenergy: Construction, Biomedical and Other Industrial Applications,