There are three generations of biofuels. The first of these refers to conventional fuel mixed with oil from plants such as sunflower, rapeseed, soybeans or others.
Second-generation biofuel involves replacing petroleum with plant waste and residues, such as used cooking oil, wood waste, manure, straws, etc., which are then turned into fuel.
The third generation of biofuel is still in the research phase and consists of a fuel from algae or other sources, which manages to clean an area or reuse waste that would normally interfere with human or animal life.
What the Austrians from OMV are doing in their Schwechat refinery is something different. Instead of mixing already finished diesel fuel with biofuel or just used cooking oil that has been filtered, the co-processing method takes things to a new level.
Their idea is to treat the biofuel with the crude oil in a hydrotreatment plant. The latter involves adding hydrogen to the oil mixture to remove impurities from the resulting fuel. Therefore, the product will be free of oxygen, grease or various other substances which are not intended to be in a combustion chamber.
The resulting product is a pure hydrocarbon, which is just like conventional diesel obtained from crude oil if analyzed chemically. Unlike diesel mixed with used cooking oil, this Green Diesel is a high quality fuel that can run smoothly in any car that requires this type of fuel.Why is this a big deal?
Well, conventional biodiesel can only use up to seven percent of biofuels. This is a quality restriction, OMV explained. The industry standard requires it, so there is no chance that this will change overnight. Meanwhile, the new Green Diesel which is made by co-processing allows up to 25 percent bio-component blended into this type of fuel.
This is an eighteen percent increase in the amount of non-fossil fuel in diesel, which is a dramatic improvement. This results in a significant reduction in the carbon footprint and finds a new use for waste oils that could have affected the water supply if they were not properly disposed of and reused.
According to OMV, the company has been experimenting with the subject since 2016 at its Schwechat refinery and now wants to build a new facility capable of processing more bio-oil. Their next goal is 160,000 metric tonnes of biogenic feedstocks, as the company calls the non-fossil oil it uses.
Another important achievement with the Co-Processing method is the ability to use just about any type of oil to be mixed with the crude. This means that “traditional” rapeseed oil, already a large part of biodiesel, is not the only one going to the refinery, like sunflower oil or even used cooking oil is also invited to the refinery. Party.
With this in mind, it should be considered that the quality of the oil supplied can be an issue, and so can the availability. In other words, it is difficult for the company to source such a large quantity of used cooking oils or rapeseed oil from elsewhere. Obtaining the oil should not be the end goal, as the company needs to do so in a sustainable manner, which will not affect other crops or industries.
Additionally, if the oil they receive contains too much phosphorus, excess sulfur, or other chemicals, it must be treated to ensure it will meet all applicable standards. Note that it must be able to work in any diesel powered vehicle sold in the world without risking damage to it.
The Austrian company has also announced that it will extract the oil from cashew nut shells and even seaweed. The latter has been discussed as a fuel source before, and the goal is to find a sustainable oil source that can give reliable results with minimal processing.
It’s not an easy task, but the next step for the Schwechat refinery will come in 2023 when it produces hydrotreated vegetable oil. The latter is supposed to save up to 360,000 tonnes of CO2 each year compared to the old regular fossil fuel.
To put it in perspective, 360,000 tonnes of CO2 per year is equivalent to the emissions of an average car circling the equator 60,000 times. It’s been a lot of miles, right? Said type of biofuel is said to provide at least a 65 percent reduction in CO2 compared to fossil diesel.