With the adoption of REDIII last week we are set for a dramatic increase in the “renewable” element of liquid fuels. It means that in just 10 years, the renewable element will have tripled, rising from 10% in 2020 to 29% from 2030 onwards. In the EU, Concawe (a division of the European fuel manufacturing industry) develops scientific research and technical studies on the fuel industry’s products and operations, and their impact. Concawe is hosting the 15th edition of the Concawe Symposium on Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th October 2023 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Brussels, Belgium. Ahead of the two-day programme (click here for registration), we put the spotlight on BP’s biofuels SVP Nigel Dunn to hear how biofuels are helping set the transport sector on the path to net zero. (promoted by Concawe)
***About the Concawe Symposium***
This 2023 edition will focus on challenges and opportunities to meet EU’s climate and air quality objectives and the potential contribution to those of the fuel manufacturing industry.
The Symposium will start with two keynote speeches, one will highlight the importance of energy security, the required evolution of industry and challenges ahead, and the other one will compare the supporting policies on both side of the Atlantic. Then, the first session will set the general context of the European Green Deal and Fit-for-55 and will discuss some of the key challenges but also the enabling technologies which could be used at scale to decarbonise Europe: electrification and batteries, electrolysis and green hydrogen, renewable and low-carbon fuels (including advanced biofuels and e-fuels). A second session in the same day will explore the latest trends and focus on multi-contribution scenarios.
The 2nd day will kick-off with keynote speeches on EU and US approaches on ambient air quality policy development. Then, the third session of the Symposium will look into the application of mitigation measures for exceedances of air quality limit values at city level and the future actions which could be effective in further improving air quality. Finally, the fourth session will focus on source apportionment modelling and insights will be provided on its role in supporting air quality assessment and planning. Each session will end by a debate with the speakers, in which the public will be invited to ask questions and share comments and experience.
For more information on the agenda and the topics, please check the draft programme.
Registrations are open here.
For any questions about the event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. Where do biofuels fit in the transition to net zero? Why make them part of bp’s transformation plans?
“Biofuels are a great example of action now in the road transport sector – we already use them in many countries and we can deploy more without changing what and how we drive.”
An internal combustion engine (ICE) car that currently runs on mostly (or entirely) fossil fuel can work with biofuels, too. Also, we can provide these fuels to cars using existing infrastructure around the world – terminals, pipelines, storage tanks – meaning we can scale right away with the right regulations in place.
It means we can reduce emissions levels in the near term, while other solutions, such as electric vehicles or hydrogen, deploy at scale.
Biofuels are also important for aviation – in particular, sustainable aviation fuels.
Q. Where is the demand for these fuels coming from?
Today, the biggest demand is from ground transport, such as cars, vans and heavy goods vehicles. Biofuels are an easy way for our customers to make progress decarbonizing and, over the next decade, we expect demand to rise quickly.
Currently, biofuels are mainly used in low-level blends with fossil fuel. Take E10* as an example, that’s 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. Drop-in, advanced biofuels used for ground transport can reach much higher blend levels, delivering up to 80% reductions in carbon emissions on a lifecycle basis. As countries around the world adopt these fuel blends, demand will be strong and sustained.
*E10 is gasoline containing up to 10% (v/v) ethanol and up to 3.7% (m/m) oxygen.
Q. If biofuels are used in part as a stepping stone towards other lower carbon alternatives, do they still have a role to play longer term?
Absolutely. To start, biofuels will still be a key source of lower carbon energy for ground transportation in many parts of the world where other lower carbon solutions are cost prohibitive. Hard-to-abate sectors, such as aviation and marine, will likely be reliant on renewable liquid fuels such as biofuels to reduce emissions on a lifecycle basis for the fossil fuel it replaces for decades to come.
Today, the industry produces approximately 5,000 barrels per day (kbd)* of SAF, but global jet fuel demand is close to 5.5 million barrels a day** (and growing as the sector recovers after Covid).
Other types of energy – such as hydrogen or electricity – are being developed for aviation, but these are currently only viable for a handful of short-haul flights with limited passengers.
In future, we may see more electric aircraft for short range flights and hydrogen for medium range.
Of course, low carbon hydrogen and renewable electricity both have important roles in making lower carbon fuels, but, in short, biofuel is a key long-term play in the decarbonization of aviation and we aim to be a sector leader in its supply.
*Based on IATA data, over 300 million litres of SAF were produced in 2022 – equivalent to 2 million barrels.
** According the bp Statistical Review 2022.
Q. How is BP progressing with its biofuel strategy?
A good way to explain this is to think about the different ways you can make biofuels and the contribution they can make to decarbonizing transport now and in the future.
Right now, probably the simplest, cheapest ‘drop-in’ option is to process bio feedstocks through our existing refineries producing a bio/fossil fuel, co-mingled product. That’s where we’ve started – we’ve been up and running for quite some time producing biofuels through this co-processing method and have established a profitable business model. We are increasing our co-processing capability where practicable, like the recent expansion we have announced at our Cherry Point refinery, but there are limits to how far we can go with a conventional refinery.
We are, therefore, in action to develop standalone plants that produce HEFA biofuels (Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids) – a term that covers biofuels made from used cooking oil, beef tallow, rapeseed oil, amongst others.
We are planning major projects involving a multi-billion-dollar investment across five existing bp facilities – our refineries at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Lingen in Germany, Castellón in Spain and Cherry Point in the US, as well as our import terminal at Kwinana in Australia – with the aim for all five to start up before 2030. These projects are expected to make a significant contribution towards bp’s aim to produce around 100,000 barrels of biofuels per day by 2030.
That said, in the longer term, and particularly with the demand for SAF anticipated to be so strong, there simply won’t be enough wastes and residues available to produce fuels from these feedstocks alone. So, we are also exploring alternative pathways.
One of these is using alcohol – specifically, ethanol – to make SAF. This is more complex and potentially more costly to produce. There are several stages involved (adding complexity) and the full process has never been done at scale. We’re pretty far down the road in designing the first commercial end-to-end, ethanol-to-jet fuel facility.
Another option is to use non-recyclable municipal solid waste – or rubbish. Again, producing fuels from this is potentially costly, but it can help to reduce landfill and the world will need these alternative pathways to keep up with demand. Here, we’re a part owner in Fulcrum, a biofuels company that has recently become the first to to turn municipal solid waste into a synthetic crude for making fuel at scale.
Beyond that, we’re always investing in innovation to explore new options. We’re interested in the viability of electro-fuels, or e-fuels. It’s in the very early stages of development, but it has huge potential and is likely to be a key technology for low carbon aviation in the long term.
“This combination of near-term and longer-timeline opportunities is the basis of our biofuels strategy, giving us huge momentum in the pathway to net zero.”
Q. How can BP expect to fare against others in the sector?
When you think about all the different working parts involved in the production and marketing of biofuels, you begin to see why we’re in such a strong position.
It starts with the feedstock. Producing a global supply of biofuels means you need to be world class at sourcing the raw materials – and managing the associated risks. You can’t just go to one place in one market, meaning it takes an established global network to make this happen. This is exactly what our trading and shipping organization does – and we’ve proven we’re good at it.
Turning to the manufacturing of biofuels, these are capital-intensive, complex projects to design, build and operate. At bp, we’ve been building complex projects for 100 years and have a track record of doing this in a safe, efficient and timely way.
The final point is about the end customer – this is really important. We already have an established customer base that we know very well – we’re scaling up, not starting from scratch. For example, we’re selling jet fuel to airlines today. The difference is that we’re becoming their decarbonization partner, driven by, and capable of, meeting their requirements now and in the future.
Because we’re an integrated energy company, we can help customers to transition on their terms – moving to biofuels, EVs, hydrogen, wind and solar. There are not many companies on the planet capable of all that.
There isn’t a single solution to decarbonize the world’s energy systems, so biofuels are going to play an important role alongside other forms of lower carbon energy, like wind, solar and hydrogen. That’s why bp is investing in all of these areas.
- This interview published ahead of the Concawe Symposium on October 16 and 17 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Brussels. Register NOW
- Energy Post thanks BP for the interview. BP is a member of the Concawe Scientific Committee. You can find out more about their transition steps and strategy at “BP/Re-imagining Energy”