Anelise Lara, the head of Petrobras’ refining, announced that the company is ready to begin production of renewable diesel from soy or other edible oils at commercial scale. Petrobras will expand investments in the segment as soon as it is granted a permit, Lara said.
Petrobras recently successfully concluded tests on an industrial scale for the production of renewable diesel. The tests were conducted at the Presidente Getúlio Vargas Refinery (REPAR), in Araucária, Paraná, where 2 million liters of soybean oil were processed to obtain some 40 million liters of S10 diesel with renewable content.
Petrobras has a technology patented since 2006 for the co-processing of vegetable oils using the process called HBIO (Earlier post.) (Despite its early start, Petrobras put the commercialization of H-BIO on hold in 2014 due to the high price of soy oil at that time.)
The H-BIO process involves catalytic hydrogenation of a blend of diesel fractions and vegetable oil in a hydrotreating (HDT) reactor under controlled conditions of high temperature and hydrogen pressure to take advantage of existing plants.
The H-BIO process features a very high conversion yield—at least 95% v/v to diesel—without residue generation and a small propane production as a by-product. The process results in a product that is chemically identical to mineral diesel.
According APROBIO (Brazilian Biodesel Producers Association) studies, renewable diesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about 70% compared to petroleum diesel and 15% compared to biodiesel for the same vegetable oil of origin.
Compared to biodiesel, the main benefits of the use of renewable diesel include:
A high cetane number for better combustion quality and performance;
Greater stability to oxidation and lower water absorption;
Can be added in any proportion to high-performance diesel; and
Low contaminant levels, preserving fuel injection systems and not impact emissions reduction catalysts.
Renewable diesel still depends on regulation by the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) to be traded in Brazil.
Petrobras’ objective is to meet, together with the existing biodiesel, the portion of biofuel that must be mixed with the diesel sold at the stations. Currently, biodiesel is mixed with diesel in a proportion of at least 12% by the fuel distributors, and will reach 15% by 2023.