How Shell Catalysts & Technologies is advancing renewable diesel to support cleaner mobility

How Shell Catalysts & Technologies is advancing renewable diesel to support cleaner mobility

Felix Balthasar, manager for Shell Specialty Fuels, discusses his background as a fuels scientist and current cleaner mobility projects.

By Felix Balthasar on Nov 29, 2020

I’m currently the manager for Shell Specialty Fuels and based in Hamburg, Germany. I started working at Shell about 15 years ago as a scientist in the fuels technology organisation. I focused on the development of next-generation, differentiated fuel products, which continue to be at the core of our retail fuel offerings. Throughout the years, I’ve experienced firsthand how innovation and R&D are part of our DNA at Shell Catalysts & Technologies.

My experience as a scientist has informed my current role, where I work in close partnership with original engine manufacturers (OEMs) in Europe, the U.S. and Japan, across several product categories. One of these categories includes strategic projects towards cleaner mobility, of which R33 Blue Diesel, a renewable diesel, is an example.

R33 Blue Diesel is a new, high-quality diesel that contains up to 33% of renewable content and meets Europe’s EN 590 standard for diesel fuel. It is a normal diesel fuel that is compatible with traditional drive trains and existing refueling infrastructure, while also helping automotive companies to lower their emissions and meet their sustainability targets.

We recognise that a broad mosaic of solutions is needed to support sustainability in the automotive industry and R33 Blue Diesel is distinctive in its potential for immediate application. These are five ways Shell Catalysts & Technologies is utilising renewable diesel to support cleaner mobility for our customers.

1. Forming strong partnerships

We recognise that we need strong partnerships to support the broader Shell agenda of more and cleaner energy solutions. R33 Blue Diesel has been on the market for only three years, since it fueled the first customer truck in Q1 of 2018, and we’ve already built a strong portfolio of global brands that are passionate about the project.

R33 Blue Diesel has been adopted by some of the world’s largest, Europe-based automotive corporations, such as Volkswagen and Bosch, that use the product to replace normal diesel fuel for their trucks, buses, company cars, locomotives and heavy-lifting equipment. It is also used by Brenntag, one of the world’s largest chemical distributors, for their trucking fleet. R33 Blue Diesel helps companies reach their sustainability targets by delivering a CO2 saving of at least 20% versus fossil diesel.1

Collaboration: Driving the future of process technologies

2. Blending optimisation

R33 Blue Diesel was developed by Shell and a broad consortium of partners. We began with the question: How much biofuel can we incorporate into traditional diesel while still meeting the EN 590 fuel specification?

We wanted to have a renewable diesel fuel that is simple from an application point-of-view, so we use standard technology from the market:

  • We use renewable paraffinic diesel from Neste, the world leader in hydrotreated vegetable oils (HVO), and source biodiesel (FAME) from the local market.
  • We apply our stringent quality requirements regarding sustainability and renewable components.
  • We then utilise Shell’s additive technology for blending optimisation.

Its simplicity is an important feature for its scalability.

3. Seamless application for the end consumer

The pressure on sustainability and lowering carbon emissions is so great across sectors, and OEMs and energy companies are working hard to decarbonise transport. In my conversations with OEMs, they ask: what can be done?

Just like Shell, they want to do something about their own emissions, and R33 Blue Diesel offers a simple solution for existing drive trains. Because there is no need to invest in a new engine or new refueling infrastructure, R33 Blue Diesel can essentially be used by consumers tomorrow. It is intended to be seamless for the end customer.

Discover: Emission reduction technologies

4. Providing customers options for novel and traditional drive trains

Shell Specialty Fuels is at the heart of the energy transition challenge with a focus on renewable liquid fuels and complements the broader Shell agenda on hydrogen, electrification and liquified natural gas (LNG) to transform mobility.

While we don’t have all the answers, we aim to provide customers an array of options of cleaner fuel solutions to choose from, whether that is with novel drive trains or traditional ones. Hence renewable diesel is a compelling part of our approach to lower carbon mobility.

For traditional drive trains, high-quality, renewable liquid fuels can make a significant and lasting contribution to lowering CO2 emissions. Regulation in various regions is moving in the direction of requiring more blending of HVO and FAME in diesel, as well as ethanol and other components in gasolin.

5. Branching out into the retail space

I enjoy working with OEM customers on the energy transition challenge, and we have more business-to-business partnerships coming on-stream soon. Shell Specialty Fuels works as a close and agile team across many different parts of Shell.

In 2020, we have increasingly branched out into the retail space for end consumers with a small number of renewable diesel stations. We are working towards making the product available amongst a general public who may not necessarily be as knowledgeable about the ins-and-outs of fuel specifications.

At Shell, we are moving quickly towards developing and implementing cleaner technologies. A core focus for Shell is in biofuels production, and through our work with partners and customers, we are demonstrating how conventional drive trains, coupled with high-quality liquid fuels, can be a credible part of a future powertrain mix.

Download the energy transition report to learn about the trends and advantages of biofuels