US oil giants Exxon and Chevron are working together to find ways to bulk up their renewable fuels capacity without having to spend billions reconfiguring their refineries.
Renewable fuels account for just 5% of US fuel consumption, but are poised to grow as numerous sectors adapt to cut overall carbon emissions to combat global climate change.
The two largest US oil companies boast massive refining divisions that contribute heavily to their overall carbon emissions – and the companies have been criticised for their ‘less urgent’ approach to renewable investments, having spent a lower percentage of their capital than their rivals on green technologies.
The companies are now looking into how to process bio-based feedstocks like vegetable oils and partially processed biofuels with petroleum distillates to make renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable gasoline, without significant increases capital spending.
Commercial production of renewable fuels is costlier than making conventional motor gasoline unless coupled with tax credits.
Exxon says it will be repurpose some of its existing refinery units to produce biofuels. It aims to produce more than 40,000 barrels per day of low-emission fuels at a competitive cost by 2025.
And Chevron is looking into how to run feedstocks through their gasoline-producing units that are generally the largest component of refining facilities.
Congress is considering legislation for tax credits that would further spur refiners to process sustainable aviation fuel commercially.
Some refiners, like San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp and Finland-based Neste, have ramped up production of renewable fuels from waste oils and vegetable oils to cash in on lucrative federal and state financial incentives.
Several US refiners are in the midst of partially or totally converting plants to produce certain renewable fuels, particularly diesel.
If approved, new methods of producing renewable fuels at refineries could allow refiners to avoid lengthy environmental permit processes. Many of these processes are still undergoing further testing to see which can make renewable fuels commercially, but without damaging refining units.
- Reuters and Sean O’Meara