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Repsol to develop e-fuels and waste pyrolysis projects in Spain

In Spain, Josu Jon Imaz, CEO of the oil and multi-energy major Repsol S.A has recently disclosed two "pioneering industrial decarbonization projects" that the company will undertake with the participation of prominent Spanish and international partners. To be located in the Port of Bilbao and its surrounding area as a first option the projects will represent a combined initial investment of approximately EUR 80 million.

The Petróleos del Norte (Petronor) refinery, located in Múskiz, near Bilbao northern Spain has a refining capacity of 220 000 barrels per day (photo courtesy Petronor).

On December 2, 2019, Repsol announced that it was orienting its strategy to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, making it the first company in its sector to adopt this ambitious goal.

Repsol emphasized the circular economy as a tool for the efficient use of resources and announced that it will double its production of biofuels from vegetable oils (HVO) to 600 000 tonnes by 2030, half of which will be produced from waste before 2025.

Repsol has also indicated that it will integrate renewable energy into its refining operations through the production of green hydrogen and the use of electricity of renewable origin in its industrial processes.

This year, the company will reduce its Carbon Intensity Indicator by 3 percent with respect to the 2016 benchmark, by reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in all businesses and significantly increasing its renewable generation capacity.

Carbon capture to e-fuel

The first project, in which EUR 60 million will initially be invested, involves building one of the largest net-zero emissions synthetic fuel production plants in the world. It will combine green hydrogen—a 100 percent clean energy generated from renewable sources—with CO2 to produce synthetic electro-fuels for the transportation sector.

Spain must base its decarbonization strategy on its technological and industrial capabilities. The production of green hydrogen in combination with the capture and use of CO2 to produce net zero emission fuels is part of the industrial decarbonization strategy of Repsol. With this project, the Spanish industry is positioning itself to become a leading European player in reducing emissions, said Josu Jon Imaz, CEO of Repsol.

Repsol’s partners include its oil refining subsidiary in Bilbao, Petróleos del Norte S.A (Petronor) which is one of Spain’s principal industrial centres, and the Energy Agency of the Basque Government (EVE), a public-sector leader in the energy transition.

Pilot operational within four years

The facility, which will be fully operational within four years, will set a new benchmark in Europe thanks to the cutting-edge technology applied and the use of CO2 captured in the nearby Petronor refinery.

Repsol is investing EUR 60 million to develop one of the largest net-zero emissions synthetic fuel production plants in the world. It will combine green hydrogen—a 100 percent clean energy generated from renewable sources—with carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from the refinery to produce synthetic electro-fuels for the transportation sector (image courtesy Repsol).

According to Repsol, its development represents a “first-order technological challenge” that will be led by the Repsol Technology Lab research center and it will position Repsol on the leading edge of the development of net-zero emissions fuels.

In the first phase, which will be scalable in a later commercial-stage depending on the results obtained, 50 barrels of synthetic fuel will be produced per day, with net-zero emissions of CO2 in the entire production cycle.

Conceptual engineering will begin this year. Petronor is the only refinery in the Iberian Peninsula and one of few in Europe that has integrated the process of capture, storage, and use of CO2, and it is expected to be able to capture the CO2 directly from the air.

Waste pyrolysis project

The second project, which will be located next to the first one, also with the Port of Bilbao and its surrounding area as the priority option, will represent an initial investment of EUR 20 million. Led by Petronor, it will consist of a plant for pyrolysis gas from urban waste.

The generated gas will be used to replace part of the traditional fuels that the Basque refinery, one of the largest in Spain, currently uses in its production process.

Repsol is investing EUR 20 million in a municipal waste pyrolysis plant to produce fuel to partially off-set fossil fuel currently used at its Petronor refinery in Bilbao, northern Spain (image courtesy Repsol).

This second initiative aligns with Repsol’s strategy of promoting the circular economy which is applied in many phases of the company’s production cycle through technology and innovation.

Repsol has already implemented over 200 projects in this area identified by Repsol as one of the key levers for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

These projects highlight the importance of maintaining technological neutrality in the search for the alternatives necessary for decarbonization, taking into account all possible technological solutions for achieving success in the fight against climate change, without prejudices, committing to those that contribute to reaching our goals in the most efficient and sustainable way possible and supporting our industry, said Josu Jon Imaz.

In its first stage, this pyrolysis plant will be able to process around 10 000 tonnes of urban waste a year, and its capacity could be increased in later stages to approximately 100 000 tonnes a year, equivalent to all the urban waste produced in the surrounding area.

The projects unify three important characteristics in the current situation: a commitment to reduce the carbon footprint and the technological neutrality as a lever; the challenges that the industry and technology are facing in relation to the energy transition; and public-private partnerships as a smart tool to realize an industrial development that will help us consolidate a sustainable welfare society, said Emiliano López Atxurra, Chairman of Petronor.

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