ECB Group Renewable Diesel Project in Latin America Uses Unique Hydrogen Integration Design

September 14, 2021 |

By Dan Szeezil, Business Leader, Renewable Fuels, Honeywell

Special to The Digest

The first renewable diesel project in South America will be built in Paraguay. The Omega Green renewable fuel complex developed by ECB Group has an investment cost of more than $800 million and is the largest private investment in the country’s history. The facility will use a mix of feedstocks including soybean oil, pongamia oil, animal fats and used cooking oil to produce both renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel.

As demand increases for renewable diesel and jet fuel, it is common to see new projects popping up at locations around the world.  The Omega Green project will incorporate a first-of-a-kind technology integration to further reduce the carbon intensity over the lifecycle of the finished fuel.  Honeywell UOP is providing its Ecofining process technology for the conversion of oils and fats into renewable diesel and jet fuel.  As part of this distinctive design, the hydrogen necessary for the treating of the oils and fats will be generated by converting the co-product naphtha and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) from the Ecofining process into renewable hydrogen.

Through an alliance with Wood Group, Wood’s hydrogen technology will be integrated with the Ecofining process to eliminate the need for an outside hydrogen source.  For the Omega Green project, this is necessary because of the lack of natural gas or other hydrogen source nearby. Instead of shipping in hydrogen or building a new natural gas pipeline, Omega Green decided to implement this new offering which provides the dual benefit of lowering capital cost and reducing carbon intensity of the renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel.

The integration of renewable hydrogen with fuel production is a unique design which further reduces fossil CO2 emissions for the Ecofining process by using the renewable LPG and naphtha to fill the hydrogen consumption needs of the process.  The use of sustainable feedstocks to produce renewable hydrogen can reduce the greenhouse gas footprint by 40-80% compared to fossil fuel hydrogen, depending on the feeds such as used cooking oil, animal tallow or soybean oil.  This CO2 reduction from renewable hydrogen integration has a direct impact on the final carbon intensity of the finished fuel of approximately of 4-8 gCO2e/MJ (CO2 equivalent per megajoule) based on lifecycle assessment.

“The Omega Green project will have the latest and most advanced technology for the industrial process of renewable diesel and the aero renewable kerosene, in addition to green naphtha,” said Erasmo Carlos Battistella, ECB Group CEO. “The success of this initiative in Paraguay is based on strong collaborations like the one we have with Honeywell.”

Renewable fuel carbon intensity is a major driver of product value in locations that incentivize greenhouse gas emission reductions.  In California or Oregon, under their respective Low Carbon Fuel Standards (LCFS), more credit value is granted to renewable fuels with lower carbon intensity compared to petroleum fuels. For example, renewable diesel produced from 100% used cooking oil may have a carbon intensity of approximately 8.28 gCO2e / MJ, while the same fuel produced from 100% soybean oil may have a carbon intensity of about 36.10 gCO2e / MJ. The difference of around 27.82 gCO2e / MJ of carbon intensity between the two fuels makes the renewable diesel produced from used cooking oil eligible for more credits. In a location that offers an LCFS credit value of $200 per metric ton, the difference in LCFS credits would be approximately $0.80 per gallon.

“As demand for diesel and jet fuel continues to grow globally, it is a major milestone to have the first biorefinery in South America which can help meet this demand with renewable domestic resources,” said Ben Owens, vice president and general manager, Honeywell Sustainable Technology Solutions. “Our renewable fuels technologies are a proven solution, helping Paraguay become a leading supplier of biofuels.”

As part of the carbon reduction plan, the Omega Green project has an agreement with agroforestry company Investancia to purchase pongamia oil.  Investancia plans to plant 50 million pongamia trees over the next 10 years to deliver pongamia oil for conversion to renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel.  Pongamia oil has one of the lowest carbon intensity levels of currently available feedstocks and is three times less carbon intensive than soybean oil.

The Omega Green project has multiple offtake contracts for renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, including BP and Shell.  Offtaker companies generally value the production of low carbon intensity fuel and often sell the finished fuels into regions offering LCFS-style credits.  By using an integrated renewable hydrogen design, both Omega Green and the offtakers can capture more value for the green diesel and sustainable aviation fuels.

The evolution of renewable fuel regulations is expected to change from volume blending obligations to targeted reductions in overall fuel carbon intensity.  Programs resembling LCFS in California are under discussion in multiple states in the US and are part of the revised Renewable Energy Directive proposal in Europe.  The benefits of a program based on carbon intensity reduction include trackable greenhouse gas emission reductions and technology agnostic opportunities for all producers to deliver low carbon fuels to these regions.

The Omega Green project is expected to be a model development for facilities in the future as renewable fuel producers look to optimize fuel carbon intensity for a wide range of sustainable feedstocks.

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