« BackNews: Major Oil Companies Aim To Use Current Facilities To Make Biofuels

Major Oil Companies Aim To Use Current Facilities To Make Biofuels

Two of the biggest oil companies in the world, Exxon Mobil and Chevron, are exploring ways to create renewable fuels at their current facilities without considerable upgrades.

According to sources that contacted Reuters, the two companies are wary about spending the billions of dollars that other competitors are spending to create dedicated biofuel refineries but instead repurpose their existing equipment in order to produce low-carbon fuels.

This not only would save them money on infrastructure upgrades, but avoid the issue seen in the United States where conventional fuel is cheaper to make than commercially produced renewable fuels, allowing for competitively priced sustainable alternatives.

However, these systems need to be tested, as biodiesel is somewhat different to conventional diesel and the pipes, tanks and vacuum relief valve systems need to be shown to work with them.


Making The Switch

Biofuel can be produced in a range of different ways but tends to require a multi-step process to convert biomass into usable fuels.

The first step is to break down the biomass, and this can be undertaken either through high temperature means using heat and pressure, or low temperature means using acids, enzymes or other treatments.

This creates a crude fuel product, typically bio-oil, syngas or sugars. These are then processed using catalysts or fermentation processes to create blendstocks and chemicals that can either be used directly or finished in a refinery to make more specialised fuels.

The process has more in common with waste disposal or alcohol production than it does the creation of conventional fuels, so it remains to be seen whether biofuel can be produced using existing petrol refining equipment.