Decarbonisation Technology - May 2023 Issue

Biofuels syncrude pathway for producing SAF from waste A waste-to-fuels process converts refuse derived fuel to syncrude that can be readily refined and co-processed to form SAF using conventional refining

Candice Carrington and Mohammed Navedkhan Petrofac

I n 2020, the aviation industry’s global economic impact was estimated to be about $3.5 trillion, equivalent to 4% of global gross domestic product (GDP) (ATAG, 2020), consuming approximately 300 million tons of aviation jet fuel per year worldwide. Moreover, despite its median emissions profile, between gasoline and diesel, conventional jet fuel is envisaged to be the fastest-growing source of transportation emissions due to the continued growth of the aviation sector. Clearly, decoupling the expansion of the aviation industry from its emissions is vital to achieve global net-zero targets. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has been promulgated as a preferred aviation fuel that will remain indispensable until at least the 2050s, particularly for medium- and long-haul flights, as outlined in the ‘Clean Skies for Tomorrow’ initiative (ATAG, 2020). The essence of an emissions-free drop- in aviation fuel like SAF is that it must be synthesised from renewable and carbon-sink sources such as biomass, organic waste, and municipal solid waste. These sources absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it as biogenic carbon over their lifetimes. Thus, when this carbon is incorporated into fuels and, following combustion, emitted back into the atmosphere, it creates a closed-loop cycle of energy production with no net carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Other aspects of the sustainability of SAF over its lifecycle are also critical, such as avoiding land-use change and diverting land and water away from food crops, primary forests, protected areas, and

biodiverse grasslands and peatlands that serve as significant carbon sinks. In the UK, the government has set out to focus on future-proofing the UK aviation industry, worth about £12 billion to the economy, under the Ten-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution in the country. A key element of this plan is the Green Fuels, Green Skies (GFGS) Competition, a £15 million undertaking to support the production of SAF in the UK. The aim is to support the early-stage development of a UK SAF industry, such as the pre-FEED or FEED stages of the projects, with an emphasis on the development of first-of-a-kind (FOAK) commercial SAF facilities in the UK. The target of the Ten-Point Plan is to achieve a SAF mandate of up to 10% SAF blending by 2030 and up to 75% SAF blending by 2050. This will include an option to review and increase the targets at regular intervals until and beyond 2050 via a Renewable Fuels Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) instrument (see Figure 1 ). As part of the GFGS competition, Protos Biofuels Project was selected to perform a concept/pre-FEED study to evaluate the feasibility of producing sustainable synthetic crude (syncrude) that can be processed in a conventional refinery to produce SAF. Petrofac was engaged for the pre-FEED study. Protos Biofuels is a novel waste-to-fuels process that can accept refuse-derived feedstock (RDF) sourced from a mix of waste management companies and aggregators within the UK. In a typical gas-to-liquids (GTL) process focused on transport fuels, syngas made from fossil sources is transformed into a heavy


Powered by