Shell partners SBI for drop-in biofuels

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

SBI BIOENERGY has granted exclusive development and licensing rights for its drop-in biofuels technology to Shell.

Canadian firm SBI’s process can convert a variety of waste oils, grease and fats into diesel, petrol and jet fuel, which require no further modification or blending before being used, and emit less carbon than conventional fossil fuels. Under the terms of the agreement Shell will work with SBI to demonstrate the potential of the proprietary process and if this is successful, scale up the technology for commercialisation.

Vegetable oil, algae oil, forestry waste (tall oil), or animal oils with high free fatty acid contents can all be used as feedstocks for the process, singly or as a mixture. SBI used a PICFTR reactor for the process. The first stage involves reacting the fats and oils with methanol and the first of the company’s proprietary catalysts. This stage produces biodiesel and glycerin, which is separated. The biodiesel is then fed into another PICFTR reactor where a second proprietary catalyst strips the biodiesel of any oxygen species and generates longer chain hydrocarbons. This hydrocarbon stream is continuously distilled and fractionated to produce the different fuels.

SBI says that its biofuels have a higher energy content than conventional biofuels, and that they give a higher engine output, lower emissions and reduced fuel consumption compared to conventional fossil fuels. The high purity glycerin generated as a byproduct can be sold for use in the cosmetics and personal care industry or for bioplastic production. Initially the company hopes to produce 90% biodiesel and 10% renewable petrol, although these ratios can be adjusted according to market conditions. SBI will also produce renewable jet fuel when the market for it becomes more developed.

“We are confident that Shell is the right industry partner to commercialise our low carbon intensity renewable fuel process,” said Inder Singh, SBI’s founding president and CEO. “Working with Shell means that we have a partner with proven capabilities to investigate the potential this technology has for global application and that is something that is very exciting for us.”

Raízen, Shell’s joint venture with Brazilian company Cosan, is one of the world’s largest producers of sugarcane ethanol.

The financial terms of the agreement were not revealed.

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

Senior reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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