Biofuels are renewable fuels that can be blended into petrol and diesel. They can be a cost-effective way to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the transport sector, as long as their production is responsibly-managed.

Today, most biofuels are produced from corn, sugar cane or vegetable oils. All biofuels can emit less CO2 when compared with conventional fuel. But this depends on several factors, particularly how the raw materials are produced and possible indirect effects. There are also concerns about labour and land rights in the agricultural sector, over using land to grow fuel instead of food, and about water use.

Shell is one of the largest producers of low-carbon biofuels made from sugar cane. Through our joint venture Raízen, we blend biofuels into our fuels globally. We are also active in the development of advanced biofuels made from sustainable feedstocks such as waste and cellulosic biomass, the non-edible parts of plants.

Responsible production

Shell produces one of the lowest-CO2 biofuels available today through Raízen, our joint-venture in Brazil, which makes ethanol from sugar cane.

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol can reduce CO2 emissions by around 70% compared with conventional petrol. Raízen ranks as one of the world's largest producers of biofuels.

Raízen’s production process is designed to minimise its environmental impact. By-products are recycled as natural fertilisers, and waste sugar cane fibres are used as fuel to generate electricity for the mills.

The mills reduce water consumption by using only rainfall to water the crops and by recycling water during production. The company’s harvesting process is already 98% mechanised which improves worker conditions and operational efficiency.

In 2018, Raízen produced around 2 billion litres of sugarcane ethanol. By the end of 2018, 21 of Raízen’s 26 sugar-cane mills were certified to the Bonsucro standard, a qualification which certifies sugarcane globally for its social and environmental criteria.

Blending biofuels globally

Shell is one of the largest blenders and distributers of biofuels in the world. In 2017, we used around 9 billion litres of biofuels in the petrol and diesel we sold worldwide.

In many countries fuel retailers are required to blend a certain percentage of biofuels into their petrol or diesel.

Shell purchases biofuels to blend into our fuels in line with country specific regulations. We request that the biofuels we purchase are produced in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible across the life cycle of the production chain.

Shell also supports the adoption of international sustainability standards including the Round Table on Responsible Soy, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Bonsucro, a non-profit organisation for sugar cane.

We also support the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials and the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) scheme both of which can be used for any feedstocks.

We have specific purchasing policies for biofuels made from palm oil, soy from South America or sugar cane, to increase our use of independently certified sustainable biofuels.

For many years we have had 100% certified sustainable palm oil (either physically certified or certified by RSPO endorsed credits).

Our South American soy and sugarcane derived biofuels are currently around 40% certified and we are aiming to increase this to 100% in time. 

Biofuels in Thailand

In Thailand, for example, locally-grown palm oil is turned into biodiesel (biofuel) and then blended into diesel. This is designed to increase energy from renewable sources as part of a 10-year government plan, while supporting agriculture.

Of the country’s roughly 120,000 palm oil producers, most are independent smallholders.

Watch the film below to see how our project with Patum Vegetable Oil has fostered closer collaboration between the mills, refineries and farmers towards the production of more sustainable biofuels.

Advanced biofuels

Shell was one of the first energy companies to invest in making advanced biofuels from alternative feedstocks such as wastes. We continue to invest in new ways to produce biofuels from sustainable feedstocks.

In 2015, Raízen opened its first cellulosic ethanol plant at its Costa Pinto mill in Brazil. Production in 2018 was almost 15.5 million litres, and over time the mill is expected to produce around 40 million litres a year of advanced biofuels from sugarcane residues.

In 2017, we completed construction of a demonstration plant at Shell Technology Centre Bangalore, India. This plant will demonstrate a technology called IH2 [1] that turns waste into transport fuel.

In addition, we continue to look for opportunities to invest in third-party technologies and to collaborate in scaling these up for commercialisation.


[1] IH² is a trademark of Gas Technology Institute

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