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All aboard for Svebio’s ABC 2022

All aboard for Svebio’s ABC 2022
The Pyrocell biomass pyrolysis plant in Gävle is where Svebio's Advanced Biofuels Conference 2022 pre-conference tour is headed.

Biofuels – bioliquids, and green gases – are essential in the global effort to replace fossil fuels and reach the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees C compared to pre-industrial levels. With a pre-conference study tour, and six sessions over two days, the upcoming ABC 2022 aims to showcase the latest developments and insights in European and international policy, the transition from fossil to renewable fuels, and new technologies, investments, and partnerships.

Organized annually by the Swedish Bioenergy Association (Svebio), the 8th edition of the Advanced Biofuels Conference (ABC 2022) is taking place in Stockholm on September 14-15, 2022, at the venerable Royal Academy of Sciences (IVA).

For those yet undecided follows a treatise of what are bound to be topics for discussion – Sweden is on the cusp of a parliamentary regime shift following yesterday’s general election, and it is the next EU member state to hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and is together with Finland in the mid-NATO application ratification process amongst NATO members.

How this may all play out when it comes to renewable transportation fuels, novel technologies, and policy developments remains to be seen. On the one hand, Sweden has by far the highest share of renewable energy sources in transportation in the EU.

Dr Franziska Müller-Langer, Head of Department Biorefineries, Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum gemeinnützige GmbH (photo courtesy DBFZ).

On the other, given the political vurm for shifting the internal combustion engine (ICE) to the annals of technology history in favor of electrified mobility, compounded by the current geopolitical crisis in Ukraine and low water levels in major European inland waterways, what then is the future of road transportation – which direction(s) will it take?

Hard to say with any certainty, however, Dr Franziska Müller-Langer, Head of Department Biorefineries, Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum gemeinnützige GmbH (DBFZ) will provide an initiated insight into successes and lessons learned for biofuels deployment.

Dr Paul Bennett
Dr Paul Bennett Chair of the Executive Committee of IEA Bioenergy (photo courtesy Craig Robertson).

Taking a holistic view, Dr Paul Bennett, Chairman of IEA Bioenergy will discuss ”accelerating to net zero” in the opening session. IEA Bioenergy is a Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP) set up in 1978 by the International Energy Agency (IEA) with the aim of improving cooperation and information exchange between countries that have national programs in bioenergy research, development, and deployment. TCPs are independent bodies operating in a framework provided by the IEA.

Walking the talk

The opening session will feature Mats Hultman, Head of OEM Partnerships – R&D, Products and Applications, Neste Corporation, which are also headline sponsors. One of the world’s largest renewable fuel and products producers, it is a global player with conventional refinery operations in Finland, and dedicated biorefinery operations in the Netherlands and Singapore with a global annual renewable products production of 3.3 million tonnes across all modes of transport.

The company’s approximately EUR 1.4 billion capacity expansion investment in Singapore, due to come online during 2022, will add another 1.2 million tonnes of annual capacity. Furthermore, Neste’s pending joint venture with the Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) in the United States to produce 2.1 million tonnes per annum of renewable diesel following the conversion of Marathon’s Martinez refinery in California will add another 1 million tonnes to Neste’s capacity by the end of 2023 bringing the annual capacity total to 5.5 million tonnes.

Mats Hultman, Head of OEM Partnerships – R&D, Products and Applications, Neste (photo courtesy Neste).

But there is more. At the end of June 2022, Neste made a Final Investment Decision to go ahead and invest approximately EUR 1.9 billion in the expansion of its Rotterdam biorefinery in the Netherlands that currently produces around 1.4 million tonnes of renewable fuels per annum.

Expected to come online in 2026, the expanded facility will have an annual nameplate capacity of 2.7 million tonnes of which 1.2 million tonnes will be sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Additional feedstock sourcing has undoubtedly been secured with the acquisition of Irish animal fats trader Walco Foods Ltd that has been completed.

In addition, Neste has come underway with chemical recycling of non-recyclable end-of-life plastics having acquired a stake in and a technology license from Alterra Energy Inc., and a joint venture with Ravago to build a plant in the Netherlands. It has also ventured into the Power-to-X space with a stake in Sunfire GmbH, and has embarked on a pilot demonstrator with VTT Technical Research Finland.

Role of alcohol-derived fuels

For the gasoline (petrol) powered segment of road transportation, alcohol-derived fuels play a varied but significant role in different regions. From technical low blend additives such methanol (MTBE) and ethanol (ETBE) octane boosters replacing lead to E10, E15, and E85 blends.

According to the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), European ethanol production was 8.78 billion litres in 2021.

The United States is the world’s largest ethanol producer producing 15 billion (US) gallons (≈ 56.78 billion litres) from which the EU 27 imported 273 million litres in 2021. Isabelle Ausdal, Policy expert, US Grains Council (USGC), will provide an analysis of the US ethanol industry during a time of the electricity and gas crisis.

John Cooper, Director General, FuelsEurope (photo courtesy FuelsEurope).

Where does this fossil fuel dependency reduction leave existing refiners and distributors? John Cooper, Director General, FuelsEurope will give a cross-sectoral view on policy support for advanced biofuels investments. A division of the European Fuel Manufacturers Association, FuelsEurope represents the interest of 38 member companies that account for almost 95 percent of EU petroleum refining capacity and more than 75 percent of EU motor fuel retail sales.

One example is Chevron Renewable Energy Group, part of Chevron Corporation, one of the world’s largest integrated energy companies, that in June 2022, closed on the acquisition of Renewable Energy Group (REG), global biodiesel and renewable diesel producer with operations in both North America and Europe.

Job Barnhoorn, Senior Coordinator, Manager Corporate Affairs Europe at Chevron Renewable Energy Group (photo courtesy CREG).

The acquisition combines REG’s growing renewable fuels production and leading feedstock capabilities with Chevron’s large manufacturing, distribution, and commercial marketing position. Furthermore, it augments Chevron’s goal to grow renewable fuel production capacity to 100 000 barrels per day by 2030 and bring additional feedstock supplies and pre-treatment facilities.

Job Barnhoorn, Senior Coordinator, Manager Corporate Affairs Europe at Chevron Renewable Energy Group will speak on the use of higher blends in the road sector.

Tech reviews and updates

Gerhard Muggen, Managing Director of BTL.
Gerhard Muggen, Managing Director of BTL. Gerhard Muggen, Managing Director of BTL.

In the Policy and industry perspectives – possibilities and commercialization”  session, Gerhard Muggen, CEO of BTG-BTL from the Netherlands will discuss the potential of biomass pyrolysis technology and operational experience with sawdust and wood residues.

Along with the commercial-scale demonstration plant in Hengelo, the Netherlands, BTG-BTL’s flash pyrolysis technology is being used in Green Fuel Nordic’s biorefinery in Lieksa, Finland, and Pyrocell’s facility in Gävle, Sweden to produce crude pyrolysis oil (CPO) from woody biomass residues, the latter which is a highlight in the pre-conference tour on September 13, 2022.

The CPO from the facility is processed into transportation fuels at Preem’s Lysekil refinery, while the upgrading of CPO into marine biofuels will be discussed by colleague Hugo Borger, Managing Director of BTG-neXt in the “Biofuels in aviation and marine transport” session. BTG-neXt is a recently formed subsidiary dedicated to building and operating a pilot biorefinery, in partnership with compatriot biofuels provider GoodFuels, for converting CPO into sustainable marine diesel to demonstrate that continuous production is feasible.

These are just some of the speakers and topics that together with other presenters, and participants will grace IVA’s distinguished conference venue. Participation is still an option – but hurry, it’s the final call and the gate is closing.

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