We are experiencing the peak of what I call the first wave of the biofuels with ethanol and biodiesel as protagonists. At ECB Group we recently announced a new challenge towards second wave products, incorporating the most recent findings in biotechnology.
Omega Green is a mega-complex that will produce renewable diesel HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) and SPK (Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene, which can be blended with traditional jet fuel), when it starts operating, it will be the first second-generation renewable fuel plant in the Southern Hemisphere. The plant will be built in Paraguay, with an estimated investment of more than US $ 800 million.
But what are these new green fuels of the future?
HVO and SPK provide sustainable solutions for a planet that must reduce its CO2 emissions in all forms of transport. These advanced biofuels represent a step further in the search for sustainable fuel for the 21st-century world.
Advanced biofuels are fuels that can be produced from different types of non-food biomass, which means plant materials and animal waste, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions during its lifecycle. They are produced from animal fat residues, used cooking oils, as well as vegetable oils. Advanced biofuels allow fatty waste to be recycled and transformed into a cleaner and more efficient energy source.
What are the advantages compared to common biofuels?
They are “immediate delivery” fuels, which go “straight to the tank”. They can be used directly in the diesel engine of a truck made in the 1960s and 1970s as well as in the latest generation engines developed in Europe and the United States. Unlike other oil alternatives, which require investments in supply infrastructure or the purchase of new vehicles, there is no need for adaption.
Because they can go directly in the tank without adaptations, they have an important advantage, that is the larger potential size of the market than first-generation biodiesel, which needs to be blended with fossil diesel.
Can this biofuel be used in airplanes?
First-generation biofuels can only be used up to -5 ° C, while advanced biofuels can stand at lower temperatures. The SPK, which will be produced at Omega Green plant, can be used at -45 ° C. It is an ideal solution for the airline industry to reduce CO2 emissions. It is worth noticing that the same technology we chose for the new plant is already used to produce this biofuel in northern hemisphere units. Also, SPK has already been approved for use in large aircrafts.
Although we cannot measure the pollution levels 30.000 feet above ground, we know that the impact of airplanes in the environment is strongly negative. The sector has done little or almost nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will have to work hard on new technologies to be able to reduce its emissions by 50% until 2050. A new fuel that can be used straight in the engine should play a particularly important role in the aviation sector.
Are HVO and SPK a solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Advanced biofuels are one of the main alternatives for reducing CO2 emissions. The crucial difference between first- and second-generation biofuels is technology. We use hydrogen in the raw material to produce the reaction that turns them into fuel.
It is a process that requires electricity and allows us to produce a variety of different fuel products, in the same way that a conventional refinery produces gasoline, diesel and aviation kerosene.