Shell’s biojet bombshell: 600MGY by 2025, much more by 2030, as SAFtember keeps on rollin’

September 20, 2021 |

In the Netherlands, Royal Dutch Shell said it will produce around 2 million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel a year by 2025. That’s around 600 million gallons per year — dwarfing any other SAF production either in production or on the boards.

Shell also aims to have at least 10% of its global aviation fuel sales as SAF by 2030.

At the same time, more than 100 global aviation executives share their views in new Shell and Deloitte report calling for stronger ambition and leadership in the sector.

And Shell has prepped its vision for sustainable aviation fuel…dare we say dominance, in a companion report.

News from Rotterdam

In the Netherlands. Shell announced a final investment decision to build an 820,000-tonnes-a-year (approximately 240 million gallons) biofuels facility at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam, the Netherlands, formerly known as the Pernis refinery.

The facility is expected to use technology to capture carbon emissions from the manufacturing process and store them in an empty gas field beneath the North Sea through the Porthos project. A final investment decision for Porthos is expected next year.

The 2030 goal: how much is that?

Let’s use 2019 as a baseline, demand then was 95 billion gallons per year. Demand has fallen sharply in the pandemic, on the assumption it recovers to 2019 levels, for Shell to record a 15 percent market share they would need to produce 1.35 billion gallons per year — double their 2025 target. So, the foot may be on the supply chain accelerator pedal for some time.

Think of SAF as the Supply Accelerator Frenzy, for the next 10 years. Look us up in 2031, producers will take a five-minute break before diving in to hit the “net zero by 2050” goals.

Capacity and timelines

The Rotterdam biofuels facility is expected to start production in 2024. It will produce low-carbon fuels such as renewable diesel from waste in the form of used cooking oil, waste animal fat and other industrial and agricultural residual products, using advanced technology developed by Shell.

Sustainable aviation fuel could make up more than half of the 820,000-tonnes-a-year capacity, with the rest being renewable diesel. Shell will adjust this mix to meet customer demand.

A range of certified sustainable vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, will supplement the waste feedstocks until even more sustainable advanced feedstocks are widely available. The facility will not use virgin palm oil as feedstock.

Take aways from the new reports

  1. Aviation has often been considered a sector that will decarbonise later than others. This attitude should be replaced by a greater sense of ambition.
  2. Choosing SAF as the primary means of decarbonisation has the advantage of avoiding the need to redesign aircraft or airport infrastructure.
  3. More ambitious efforts are required and investments must start sooner if SAF is to be adopted at scale within 15 years.
  4. The uptake of certified carbon offsets must significantly increase in the short term, so they can play as full a role as possible in the early stages of decarbonisation.
  5. In parallel, there is a need to invest in less mature propulsion technologies like electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft, and for these to play a role in short-haul flights before 2050.

Decarbonising Aviation: Cleared for Take-Off is here.

Flight Path: Shell’s response, is here.

From refineries to energy parks

As part of its Powering Progress strategy, Shell is transforming its refineries (which numbered 14 in October 2020) into five energy and chemicals parks. Shell aims to reduce the production of traditional fuels by 55% by 2030 and provide more low-carbon fuels such as biofuels for road transport and aviation, and hydrogen. The Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam is the second park to be announced, following the launch in July of the Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland, in Germany.

Technology notes

Advanced production methods use bio-naphtha and light hydrocarbon gasses created during the formation process to create hydrogen. Hydrogen and high-pressure steam are then used in the production process to convert oils into fuels (hydroprocessing), helping to reduce the fuel’s carbon intensity.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Today’s announcement is a key part of the transformation of one of our major refineries into an energy and chemicals park, which will supply customers with the low-carbon products they want and need,” said Huibert Vigeveno, Shell’s Downstream Director.

Marjan van Loon, President Director of Shell Netherlands BV said: “Shell has been on the road to a lower-carbon future for some time. This investment is an important step as we transform the Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam from a traditional refinery into a sustainable energy park. The project will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of investment each year during construction, it will create hundreds of jobs, and help to maintain the facility’s competitiveness for years to come.”

The Shell backstory at the Port of Rotterdam

Shell is working with partners to create a green hydrogen hub in the Port of Rotterdam. In July 2020, Shell and Eneco were awarded a tender for the 759-megawatt (MW) Hollandse Kust Noord offshore wind project in the North Sea. This renewable power can be used to produce green hydrogen at the planned 200 MW electrolyser, which is intended to start operations by 2023 to produce about 50,000 – 60,000 kg of hydrogen a day.

The Pernis backstory

The announcement marks another step in the transformation of the former Pernis refinery into an energy and chemicals park. It complements Shell’s plans to build a 200-megawatt hydrogen electrolyser in the Port of Rotterdam, and the planned Porthos CCS project, both of which could help to decarbonise operations at Pernis significantly. When built, Porthos will transport and store CO2 that is captured by various companies, including Shell. The project aims to capture up to 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year from 2024 and could make a significant contribution to meeting the Dutch climate ambitions.


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