30 March 2023

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Shell pushes ahead with major new Rotterdam SAF production facility, potentially to be coupled with CCS

Following a final investment decision, Shell is to build an 820,000-tonnes-per-year biofuels facility in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, which it says will be among the biggest in Europe to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel made from waste. Situated at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam, formerly known as the Pernis refinery, production is due to start in 2024 and SAF is expected to make up more than half of the production capacity. Notably, the facility is likely to use technology to capture carbon emissions from the manufacturing process and store them in an empty gas field beneath the North Sea through the planned Porthos CCS project, for which a final investment decision is expected next year. As part of its Powering Progress strategy, Shell is transforming its refineries into five energy and chemicals parks, with the aim of reducing the production of traditional fuels by 55% by 2030 and providing more low carbon fuels for road transport and aviation, as well as hydrogen. Rotterdam is the second park to be announced, following the launch in July of the Rheinland park in Germany, where Shell is planning to produce SAF and synthetic aviation fuels from renewable power and biogenic sources.

Shell says advanced production methods it has developed will be used to make the fuels from waste in the form of used cooking oil, waste animal fat and other industrial and agricultural residual products. A range of certified sustainable vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, will supplement the waste feedstocks until “even more sustainable” advanced feedstocks become widely available, says the oil major, which stresses virgin palm oil will not be used by the facility as feedstock.

It says the production mix of SAF and renewable diesel can be adjusted to meet the customer demands of hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as heavy road transport and aviation.

“Shell has been on the road to a lower-carbon future for some time. This investment is an important step as we transform the Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam from a traditional refinery into a sustainable energy park,” commented Marjan van Loon, President Director of Shell Netherlands. “The project will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of investment each year during construction, it will create hundreds of jobs and help maintain the facility’s competitiveness for years to come.”

When built, Porthos would transport and store CO2 that is captured by various companies, including Shell, and aims to capture 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year from 2024.

Shell says the announcement is another step in the transformation of the former Pernis refinery and complements plans to build a 200-megawatt hydrogen electrolyser in the Port of Rotterdam, where it is working with partners to create a green hydrogen hub. Renewable power from a future 759-megawatt offshore wind project in the North Sea involving Shell would be used to produce green hydrogen at the planned electrolyser, which is intended to start operations by 2023 to produce 50,000-60,000 kg of hydrogen a day.

Europe’s largest PEM hydrogen electrolyser has already begun operations to produce green hydrogen at Shell’s Rheinland Park, near Cologne. As part of the Refhyne European consortium, and with European Commission funding through the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, the plant is the first to use this technology at such a large scale in a refinery, says Shell. Plans are underway to expand capacity of the electrolyser, which was built by ITM Power in Sheffield, UK, from 10 megawatts to 100 megawatts (Refhyne II). The Refhyne II and SAF projects are at an advanced planning stage, reported Shell, with final investment decisions still pending.

In February, Dutch carrier KLM undertook the first ever commercial flight to use synthetic kerosene, which was produced by Shell (see article).

Photo: The Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rotterdam, formerly known as the Pernis refinery