London — European companies are announcing cleaner fuel projects on the way to carbon neutrality that the EU is targeting for 2050.
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However delegates of the 10th EU refining forum in late February said that liquid fuels continue to be used. By 2050, at least half of the energy will continue to be provided by liquid fuel but in a "low carbon form," according to panel participants.
Italy's Eni in its 2021-2024 strategy update pledged to be fully carbon neutral or achieve net zero emissions by 2050 covering scope 1, 2 and 3 of greenhouse gas emissions, as it looks to grow its renewable energy business. The decarbonization of Eni's products will be achieved by expanding bio-refineries and renewables production, along with investing in carbon capture storage projects, among other initiatives. Eni is looking to double its bio-refining capacity to around 2 million mt/year by 2024, increasing this capacity at least five times by 2050. As part of this it is also looking to build blue and green hydrogen facilities for its bio-refining system.
Eni's throughput at its biorefineries in 2020 "more than doubled" compared with 2019 as it ramped up its Gela plant, which started operations in August 2019, "with increasing volumes to satisfy growing demand needs." The company's renewables capacity will increase to 4 GW in 2024, 15 GW in 2030 and 60 GW in 2050, under its net zero strategy.
Separately, hydrogen projects have been announced by Italy's Saras and Germany's Rheinland refineries.
** The preflash unit at Swiss Cressier refinery is operational, the company said Jan. 26. Varo Energy's Cressier refinery in Switzerland was installing the new column at the crude distillation unit which would allow it to improve energy consumption and expand the scope of its light products yield.
** The cogen project at UK's Pembroke refinery was on track to be completed in Q3 2021, Valero said in a conference call. It had said previously said the project had slowed, "pushing out" the mechanical completion by 6-9 months. In 2016, Valero submitted a planning application to build a 45 MW combined heat and power generation plant at Pembroke, which will provide power to the refinery and supplement its steam demand.
** Austria's OMV said it will expand and modernize the cracker units and petrochemical cold section at its Bughausen refinery in Germany with the aim of increasing its ethylene and propylene production capacity. The upgraded units are planned to go live in Q3 2022, following a turnaround of the refinery.
** A planned upgrade of Spain's Puertollano 102,000 mt/year ethylene olefins unit is expected to take place in 2021.
** At Spain's Coruna refinery, construction of a new distillation unit at the petrochemicals facility has started, to produce polymer-grade propylene with an investment of Eur29 million ($35 million) in May 2020, which is planned to be online early in 2021. The unit will boost propylene production at the refinery by 35% to reach 81,000 mt/year.
** Poland's second largest refiner, Grupa Lotos, is looking at developing a hydrocracker unit at Gdansk for the production of base oils.
** Serbia's Pancevo refinery will upgrade its catalytic cracker, owner Gazprom Neft said. NIS, a subsidiary of Gazprom Neft, has signed a contract for developing the project with Lummus Technology, part of McDermott Group. Completion is earmarked for 2024. Within the same project a unit will be built for the production of high-octane gasoline components.
** Total said that despite the temporary shutdown the modernization of the Donges in which it is investing Eur450 million will continue. This includes Eur350 million for a desulfurization unit, Eur50 million for participating in the bypassing of the rail lines, and Eur50 million in a unique control room.
Separately, the refinery said on its website this week that it has started preparations for installing a new diesel hydrotreater. A new diesel hydrodesulfurization unit at France's Donges was expected to come online in 2023, Total said previously. Construction of the HDT-VGO units, which had been awarded to Kinetics Technology, will go ahead alongside a rail bypass which was the main requirement for the refinery's upgrade to proceed. Kinetics Technology said it had been awarded the contract for building the 40,000 b/d hydrotreater. The French government, local authorities, railway operator SNCF and Total signed a memorandum of intent in 2016 to build the railroad track bypassing the Donges refinery.
Total said previously that, following the bypass agreement, it would proceed with the planned upgrade.
The bypass will be ready in 2022.
** Cepsa's San Roque has received a favorable environmental impact assessment for its Eur1 billion "bottom of the barrel" project, which includes the construction of a new hydrocracker and the idling of the visbreaking unit, among other work, according to a publication in the country's official gazette, the Boletin Oficial del Estado, or BOE. The project has been delayed due to local objections which caused earthworks at the site to be halted in 2019 and then further delayed by pandemic-related measures in the country and other legal challenges. The project entails the construction of a new LC Fining hydrocracking unit which will provide 36,700 b/d of LC Fining technology and 27,600 b/d of isotreating, strengthening Cepsa's marine diesel and bunker fuel oil output, as well as a sulfur unit and new hydrogen unit. The new hydrocracker will produce lighter products by increasing the conversion factor and also boosting the output of gasoline blending components. The production of diesel should increase to 55% from 40% once the project is concluded, the company said previously. The overall crude processing capacity will not be altered, according to the BOE. No date has been announced for the start of the work, which was initially due to begin in 2019 and conclude in 2022. Separately, Cepsa will revamp Isomax, fluid catalytic cracker, alkylation units at San Roque and will construct a methylene unit (Sorbex II).
** Bulgaria's Burgas refinery has awarded a contract to US Lummus Technology for a 280,000 mt/year polypropylene plant. The contract includes a technology license as well as as basic design engineering, training and services, and catalyst supply, Lummus said. "This award is the second significant polypropylene contract we have signed with Lukoil recently," Lummus Technology President and CEO Leon de Bruyn said. Lummus said it has earlier been awarded a contract for a propylene unit at Lukoil's Russian Kstovo refinery in Nizhny Novgorod.
** Hungary MOL's Croatian affiliate INA made a final investment decision to carry out a residue upgrade project at the Rijeka refinery. The project includes building a delayed coker. The company said in October it would continue "and if possible accelerate, work on our strategic Residue Upgrade project and the implementation of other capital projects that can be done only when the units are partially out of operation." Its Rijeka refinery will be offline for a few months from November. MOL said the Sisak refinery will be converted into a bitumen production site and logistics hub. The facility may also produce lubricants and bio-fuel components, subject to further investment decisions.
** Poland's PKN Orlen has completed the Czech Crown 9.6 billion ($410 million) polyethylene 3 unit investment at its Litvinov refinery in the Czech Republic. The refinery's owner Unipetrol, a 100%-owned PKN subsidiary, has now taken charge of the black polyethylene unit, the second part of the investment, PKN said in a statement. The first part, the natural polyethylene unit, was completed in April 2020. The polyethylene 3 unit, which can produce 270,000 mt/year of high density polyethylene, will replace production of one of the two existing production units with a capacity of 120,000 mt/year. Litvinov's polyethylene capacity will increase from 320,000 mt/yr to 470,000 mt/yr as a result of the investment, PKN said. Separately, McDermott International has been awarded a contract for engineering, procurement and construction management services for the upgrade of the hydrocracker at Czech Litvinov refinery.
** PKN Orlen is holding talks with the Lithuanian government about it co-financing a bottom-of-the-barrel processing investment at the country's Orlen Lietuva refinery. "Without in-depth processing there will be no future for this refinery. With the bad macroeconomic environment and margins as low as they are now, if the refinery is not modern it has problems with efficiency," PKN CEO Daniel Obajtek told state news agency PAP Biznes. Obajtek said the investment would be PKN's largest in Lithuania and it would increase the refinery's diesel, gasoline and jet fuel yield by around 10 percentage points. Obajtek said once a final investment decision was taken, the project could be completed within three years.
** The industrial complex in Tarragona will adapt one of its units to manufacture advanced high resistance polypropylene with start-up in 2021, Repsol said. When operational, the plant will be the first of its kind in the Iberian peninsula to produce the highly specialized polymers for use in the automotive sector, Repsol said. At Spain's Cartagena, work restarted in September on a lubricants unit at the Ilboc plant alongside Korean partner SKSol, after being halted in March amid COVID-19 restrictions.
The lubricants plant will see capacity increase 50% to 1.0 million mt/year when work is concluded, with no date supplied.
** The Kazakh-Romanian Energy Investment Fund (FIEKR) has signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract for Turkey's Calik Enerji to build a cogeneration plant at Romania's Petromidia refinery, Rompetrol said in a statement. Commissioning of the $148 million project is targeted for the first half of 2023. The new combined electricity and heat production plant will use natural gas as the main fuel. It will have capacity of 80 MW, of which 60-70 MW will fully cover the Petromidia plant's electricity needs with up to 20 MW used to heat water for the town of Navodari's heating system.
Romania's Petromidia is also planning to build a diesel dewaxing unit "which will allow the refinery to significantly improve the process of obtaining diesel fuels in the wintertime," the company said in a statement. The project has estimated completion in September 2022. Separately, a second project is aimed at the increase by more than 30% of the production of polymers in the petrochemical division of Petromidia, which is "the sole producer in Romania in this field".
** Greece's Motor Oil Hellas said that its capital expenditure in H1 included the naphtha treatment complex, which has entered the construction phase in 2020 and is expected to be completed in Q1 2022.
** PKN Orlen last July laid the foundation stone for a Zloty 1 billion ($250 million) investment to build a visbreaking unit at its Plock refinery. The unit, which will increase diesel and gasoline yield at the refinery, is being built by a consortium of KTI Poland and IDS-BEU under a turnkey contract. It will be completed by the end of 2022. The company has said previously the visbreaker will allow the refinery to reduce fuel oil output and increase its production of distillates. The unit will have a capacity to produce 200,000 mt/year of diesel. Ongoing modernization of the hydrocracking and diesel hydrodesulfurization units at Plock will also increase the refinery's diesel production capacity. PKN Orlen, said it has purchased a license and basic design for the modernization of a hydrodesulfurization (HOG) unit to increase the production of high-margin products at its Plock refinery. PKN signed a contract to buy the license from Axens. The HOG unit at Plock was launched in 1999. The modernization will allow the unit to produce more diesel and gasoline.
** Planned maintenance and an upgrade at Germany's Leuna refinery in 2020 has been postponed "due to the ongoing pandemic and the resulting restrictions on travel and transport of goods, as well as the impact on international supply chains", the company said. Work will be carried in Q2. Total said in 2019 that it would invest Eur150 million over 2020-2021 to reduce production of heavy products as demand decreases, and increase production of methanol, an important feedstock for the chemical industry.
** Turkish refiner Tupras's upgrade plans for its four refineries include a number of new units as well as works for modernizing existing ones. The company has opened an EPC tender valued at around $400 million for the construction of new sulfur units at its three main refineries, Izmit, Izmir and Kirikkale. Tupras has also signed a $66 million tender for the revamp of the FCC unit at Izmit, which will include the installation of flue gas treatment and energy back recovery systems. Installation work is set to start this year and complete in 2021. Work had already started on a $3.9 million modernization of the PLT-7 LPG Merox unit at Izmir designed to reduce sulfur content to 30 ppm from 50 ppm to meet new emissions standards. Further upgrades planned at Izmir include a $25 million project to increase the capacity of the CCR U-9200 Platformer Unit from 160 cu m/hour to 225 cu m/hour, as well as a $69 million project to revamp the FCC unit and install flue gas treatment and energy recovery systems.
** Bosnia's Brod refinery is offline while it is being reconstructed. The refinery suspended its operations in 2019 for an upgrade and to prepare for the use of natural gas, which will replace fuel oil as a power source for refinery processes.
** ExxonMobil said it has "made a final investment decision to expand" the Fawley refinery in the UK to increase production of ULSD by 45%, or 38,000 b/d. The more than $1 billion investment includes a hydrotreater to remove sulfur from diesel, supported by a hydrogen plant. Start-up was expected in 2021.
** Russian Lukoil plans to invest in its ISAB refinery in southern Italy and has also dropped plans announced in 2017 to sell the plant having not received suitable offers. Lukoil will invest $60 million in upgrades, including two hydrodesulfurization units.
** Cepsa said it will carry out upgrades to its aromax and hydrocracker units at Huelva. It is also carrying out an aromatics optimization project at the refinery.
** Israel's Haifa District Court has rejected an appeal by Haifa municipality along with six other neighboring communities and environmental groups against the proposed expansion of the Bazan refinery.
Biofuel, hydrogen upgrades
New and revised entries
** Italy's Enel Green Power and Saras said they have signed a memorandum of intent to develop a green hydrogen project at the Sardinian refinery Sarroch operated by Saras with an initial 20 MW electrolyzer. The hydrogen produced would be used at the refinery based at the Sarroch industrial site. Green hydrogen is "considered one of the strategies with the greatest potential for the decarbonization of refining processes and the production of new generation fuels," Dario Scaffardi, CEO of Saras said. Through a distributed network, hydrogen is an integral part of Saras' refining process for its use in hydrocracking and hydrotreatment processes. It is currently provided by the IGCC complex and two reforming units on the industrial site.
** Shell is planning to build the first commercial bio-PTL (power-to-liquid) at its Rheinland refinery in Germany, which will involve expanding its electrolyzer project at the site to 100 MW. Construction for the new project (Refhyne II), which would produce 100,000 mt/year of synthetic kerosene and raw gasoline (naphtha) using green hydrogen generated in the electrolyzer as well as biomass (waste wood), could start in 2022, with a view to commercial operations beginning in 2025, Shell said in a statement. Together with ITM Power and Linde, the company is currently commissioning what will be Europe's biggest polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzer at the site, a 10 MW unit. In the expanded electrolyzer project, Refhyne II, ITM and Linde again are partnering Shell. Germany's Rhineland investment project will generate hydrogen from electricity rather than natural gas. The refinery consists of the Wesseling (south) and Godorf (north) sites.
** Eni is evaluating conversion of its Livorno refinery in northwest Italy into a bio-refinery, as part of the Italian company's wider strategy to make its activities more environmentally sustainable. Eni has already converted two of its Italian refineries and aims to double its bio-refining capacity to around 2 million mt/yr by 2024, increasing this capacity at least five times by 2050.
** Essar Oil UK said that together with Fulcrum BioEnergy Limited it will build a new facility to convert non-recyclable household waste into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to be used by airlines operating at UK airports. "This innovative bio-refinery will convert several hundred thousand tonnes of pre-processed waste, which would have otherwise been destined for incineration or landfill, into approximately 100 million litres of low carbon SAF annually," the company said. Fulcrum will build, own and operate the plant within the Stanlow manufacturing complex. Plans are expected to be completed at the end of this year subject to planning consent. The facility will be operational in late 2025. The facility will utilize direct pipeline access to transport the SAF to UK airports through the Manchester Jet Line and the UK Oil Pipeline network. Separately, Essar Oil UK had set up a joint venture with Progressive Energy, developers of UK's leading industrial decarbonization cluster HyNet North West, to produce low carbon hydrogen at its Stanlow refinery. Natural gas and fuel gases from Stanlow will be converted into low carbon hydrogen "with carbon dioxide safely captured and stored offshore in sub-surface reservoirs in Liverpool Bay."
** Austria's OMV said it will build the country's largest electrolysis plant at the Schwechat refinery through a joint investment with Kommunalkredit Austria AG. The plant is expected to start up in the second half of 2023. The 10 MW polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysis will produce up to 1,500 mt/year of green hydrogen which will be used "to hydrogenate bio-based and fossil fuels, substituting grey hydrogen in the refinery." Separately, OMV said it is investing around Eur200 million in biofuel production at its Schwechat refinery in Austria. The refinery will convert up to 160,000 mt of liquid biomass into carbon-neutral fuels. The product can be used in any type of vehicle, OMV said, adding the technology will not be limited only to vegetable oil, but using waste products, such as used cooking oil, and advanced feedstocks will also be possible "based on availability".
** Germany's MiRo refinery in Karlsruhe is considering launching production of synthetic fuels, pending approval by the local government, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported. The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg plans a large renewable fuels pilot project at the MiRo refinery to be developed by research institute KIT, with electrolyzer spin-off INERATEC currently developing a similar project with an up to 10 MW electrolyzer at Frankfurt-Hoechst, a spokeswoman said Jan. 25.
Baden-Wuerttemberg's environment ministry on Jan. 22 started a green hydrogen and fuel cell research platform H2BW, while the transport ministry on Jan. 20 said it planned to advance a pilot project for renewable fuels (ReFuels). The pilot project at the MiRo refinery would be led and developed by INERATEC, it said, with no details as yet on the size and scale of the project.
** Spain's Repsol has joined the H24All consortium as lead partner as the project seeks European funding for a 100 MW alkaline electrolysis plant in Bilbao to produce renewable hydrogen. Repsol is to lead the project in conjunction with Norwegian developer Hydrogen Pro. The proposed site is at the Petronor refinery in Bilbao. The pre-commercial alkaline electrolyzer project aimes to reduce the cost of green hydrogen to Eur3/kg, it said. Repsol plans to boost hydrogen capacity at its refineries, which consume more than 70% of Spain's hydrogen at present. The company was targeting 64,000 mt/yr of renewable hydrogen production by 2025 and 192,000 mt/yr by 2030.
** Phillips 66 said its UK refinery was moving to produce 5,000 b/d renewable diesel by 2024 after recently expanding capacity to 3,000 b/d from 1,000 b/d. Humber produced 1,000 b/d of renewable diesel last year, after starting production in 2019. The company is working with the UK's Gigastack consortium on a project that involves the use of renewable hydrogen at Humber to reduce the carbon content of fuels produced at the refinery. Humber is also a valuable contributor of coke and can play a role in the UK's energy transition while contributing to the local production of batteries for electric vehicles, the company said.
** French oil company Total and utility Engie have signed a cooperation agreement to design, develop, build and operate France's largest renewable hydrogen production site near Total's La Mede biorefinery. The Masshylia project at Martigues, west of Marseilles, will be powered by a 100 MW solar farm with a 40 MW electrolyzer set to produce 5 mt/day of green hydrogen to meet the needs of the biofuel production process at Total's nearby biorefinery, avoiding 15,000 mt of CO2/year, the companies said in a joint statement. Construction will start next year following the completion of the advanced engineering study. Production could start in 2024, subject to financial support and public authorizations, the partners said.
** Preem and Vattenfall will investigate the possibilities of building a large facility at Lysekil refinery for producing hydrogen. Preem's goal of producing 5 million cu m of biofuels by 2030 "requires large-scale supply of hydrogen," the companies said. They will, therefore, investigate the possibilities of supplying Preem's hydrogen needs with fossil-free hydrogen from large-scale electrolysis of water.
Depending on the results of the study, which is due to be completed by the summer, the next step "may be to prepare the construction of a first electrolysis plant at the refinery in Lysekil in the order of 200-500 MW." An investment in fossil-free hydrogen could "create opportunities for increased biofuel production while we reduce emissions at our refineries," said Peter Abrahamsson, Head of Sustainable Development at Preem. In October, Preem started a conversion of Lysekil in a move that will make it the biggest producer of renewable fuels in Scandinavia. The development followed a statement by the company in September that an upgrade of the conventional oil productions refinery had been abandoned. In an initial phase, Preem plans to carry out a redevelopment of the existing Synsat plant, which currently produces environmental Class 1 diesel. When the conversion is complete, the plant will have the capacity to process up to 40% of its renewable raw materials, with the ambition to reach higher levels in the long term.
** Polish refiner Grupa Lotos plans to build a pilot 100 MW electrolysis installation and 20 MW power generation unit by 2025. The company has chosen technical advisers and completed preliminary studies, and will partner with the country's electricity transmission system operator PSE, it said. The first stage of the investment will be a pilot project in 2020-2025 including a 100 MW electrolysis installation, a 20 MW power generation unit, hydrogen storage and fuel cells. The company said its location in Gdansk on the Baltic Sea coastline was favorable for cooperation with planned offshore wind farms for the production of renewable hydrogen. The hydrogen would be stored in salt caverns and used in energy production during peak demand. During a first stage, Lotos planned to develop a pilot program to build a large-scale electrolysis installation to produce low carbon hydrogen mainly for these refining purposes. In the second stage between 2025-2030, Lotos would look to expand the capacity of the electrolysis installation to 1 GW, and the associated gas-fired generation unit to 200 MW. Storage capacity would be increased to 2,500 mt of hydrogen. In a third stage to 2040, Lotos aimed to become the regional leader in the production and distribution of green hydrogen with plans to supply the gas to refineries and power generation plants, as well as injecting hydrogen into the gas grid. The electrolysis installation would be expanded to 4 GW with a 1 GW gas-fired generation unit, it said.
** Finnish refiner Neste will revamp operations at its Porvoo refinery to focus on co-processing renewable and circular raw materials. Neste has emerged as one of the key producers of sustainable aviation fuel with current capacity of 100,000 mt/year. With the its ongoing Singapore refinery expansion and with possible additional investment into its Rotterdam refinery, Neste will have the capacity to produce some 1.5 million mt/year of SAF annually by 2023. Neste also aims to increase the volumes of liquefied waste plastic processing after processing 400 mt at Porvoo this autumn. The processing units at Porvoo "are already being prepared for 2021," it said in a statement. "Together with the renewable feedstock that we have already been providing for the production of high-quality, high-performance polymers and chemicals with reduced carbon footprint, these new volumes produced through chemical recycling of plastic waste will significantly contribute to accelerating the necessary shift towards the circular bioeconomy for plastics," it said. Neste aims to process annually over 1 million mt of waste plastic from 2030 onwards. It will use the liquefied plastic waste as a raw material for the production of new plastics.
** Repsol has increased its 2025 and 2030 targets for sustainable biofuel production, targeting 1.3 million mt/year of sustainable biofuel production by 2025 and more than 2 million mt/year by 2030, senior management said Nov. 26. By 2025 the company aims to nearly double sustainable biofuel production from its current output of 700,000 mt/year. Of the new production total, up to 250,000 mt/year will be from an advanced biofuels plant at its Cartagena refinery in Spain able to produce 250,000 mt/year of biofuels for aircraft, trucks and cars; up to 130,000 mt/year will be methanol supplied from its new waste pyrolosis plant in Bilbao, and up to 300,000 mt/year will come from debottlenecking activity at all five refineries, in their hydrodesulfurization and hydrotreatment units to produce HVO. The company is targeting 64,000 mt/year of renewable hydrogen production by 2025 and 192,000 mt/year by 2030. The production will be integrated with the refineries as much as possible meaning a feedstock of 50% biomethane, which will be produced by modifying its steam reformation units, and 50% by electrolyzers fed by its own renewable generation. Repsol said it will build a 10-MW, green-hydrogen plant which it will use to produce synthetic fuels in collaboration with Saudi Aramco at its Bilbao refinery. The plant is part of an Eur80 million decarbonization project that will also include a carbon-capture project and a fuel-from-waste plant, and should be completed by 2024.
** Germany's Heide refinery along with their partners Orsted and EDF would build a 30 MW electrolysis plant, calling it hydrogen ecosystem, replacing grey hydrogen with green via electrolysis unit, powered by an offshore wind farm. Heide plans to utilize green hydrogen towards methanol in the production of sustainable aviation fuel, rather than bio-components and the Fischer-Tropsch method. The company plans to commission a pilot plant unit at the refinery in 2021, before moving to scale up the project in the next three to six years.
** Orsted and BP are to jointly develop a 50 MW renewable hydrogen project at BP's Lingen refinery in Emsland, northwest Germany, Orsted said. The project, expected to be operational in 2024, would comprise a 50 MW electrolyzer capable of generating 9,000 mt/year of hydrogen, 20% of the refinery's current fossil-based hydrogen consumption. The electrolyzer is expected to be powered by an Orsted North Sea offshore wind farm. The partners have a longer-term ambition to build more than 500 MW of renewable hydrogen capacity at Lingen, providing renewable hydrogen to meet all the refinery's hydrogen demand and provide feedstock for future synthetic fuel production.
** Total said it would convert its French Grandpuits refinery "into a zero-crude platform". By 2024, the plant will focus on new industrial activities, including production of renewable diesel mostly for the aviation industry, production of bioplastics, plastics recycling and operation of two photovoltaic solar power plants. Crude oil refining will be discontinued in the first quarter of 2021 and storage of oil products will end in late 2023.
** Croatia's INA has selected Axens Futurol ethanol technology for the "basic engineering design" of an advanced bioethanol production plant at Sisak.
** Gunvor is studying the potential installation of an HVO unit at the Rotterdam refinery.
** Turkey's Ersan Petrol plans to start construction of its 1.4 million mt/year Nazli refinery at Kahramanmaras in southeast Turkey in mid-2020, with the plant expected to begin operations in less than four years, company owner Ecvet Sayer said.
** Azerbaijani state oil company Socar is considering the development of a second refinery in Turkey, in addition to its existing 214,000 b/d Star refinery at Aliaga on Turkey's central Aegean coast.