Shell and its plans to produce “sustainable” jet fuels, using plant oils and animal fats
Shell is an enthusiastic proponent of so-called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). They claim that “SAF can be made from renewable sources such as used cooking oil, municipal waste and woody biomass. It is … has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80%, compared with conventional aviation fuel.” But Biofuelwatch and others are seriously concerned about the use of plant oils, including palm oil, that Shell considers acceptable. Used cooking oil could be seen as a genuinely lower carbon fuel, but there are limited amounts of it. There have been frauds involving companies making money by claiming virgin oils are “used.” Biofuelwatch says Shell has signed a contract to buy 2.5 billion litres of aviation biofuels over a 5 year period from a refinery sourcing soya and animal fats, currently under construction in Paraguay. Cattle ranching – the source of the animal fat – is the main cause of the destruction of the Chaco forest. Shell plans to produce biofuel in Singapore, where there is pressure from Malaysia and Indonesia to use palm oil, directly or indirectly linked to habitat loss and deforestation. With immense world demand for palm oil, for human food, this cannot be justified.
SHELL AND SUSTAINABLE AVIATION BIOFUELS
By Biofuelwatch (First published by Greenwash.earth https://www.greenwash.earth/ )
Shell is an enthusiastic proponent of aviation biofuels, called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). On their website, they claim: “SAF can be made from renewable sources such as used cooking oil, municipal waste and woody biomass. It is a safe, proven fuel, which has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80%, compared with conventional aviation fuel.”
Nobody has ever been able to turn municipal waste or wood into jet fuel. Used cooking oil may be a viable feedstock technically – but there’s only so many chips people eat, hardly enough for the leftover veg oil to keep fleets of airplanes flying. But Shell does have concrete plans for sourcing quite a lot of biofuels for aircraft in the near future, plans that are deeply troubling to anyone who cares about climate change, social justice and forests:
- Shell has signed a contract to purchase a total of 2.5 billion litres of aviation biofuels over a five year period from a refinery sourcing soya and animal fats, currently under construction in Paraguay. Soya production in Paraguay has long been linked to land-grabbing, human rights violations, deforestation and pesticide poisoning. Cattle ranching – the source of the animal fat – is the main cause of the destruction of the Chaco forest, a highly biodiverse ecosystem suffering one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. The Chaco is home to Indigenous Peoples, many of whom are being evicted and losing their livelihoods. According to an investigative report by Paraguayan researches and campaigners, soon to be published by Stay Grounded, the new refinery will bring more destruction, more extinctions and more suffering to Paraguayan communities.
- Shell has just announced plans to start producing large quantities of biofuels,
including for aviation, in Singapore. Singapore lies at the heart of the global palm oil market, next to Malaysia and Indonesia which, between them produce over 80% of the world’s palm oil.
- Shell has signed an aviation biofuels agreement with the Finnish oil and biofuel company Neste. Neste, the world’s largest biofuel producer, is building a large new aviation biofuel refinery in Singapore. They source large quantities of palm oil and palm oil products and, according to a report published by Friends of the Earth Netherlands in December, 2020, “palm oil suppliers of biofuel producer Neste are responsible for the deforestation of at least 10,000 hectares since the beginning of 2019.”
Biofuelwatch, December 2021
SHELL ENERGY AND CHEMICALS PARK SINGAPORE
Situated on Pulau Bukom, it is Shell’s only energy and chemicals park in Asia. What was once an oil storage installation and later Singapore’s first refinery in 1961, has transformed into an energy and chemicals park that will focus on producing low-carbon energy products like biofuels; incorporate circularity, such as waste plastics for feedstock; as well as provide renewable energy.
A 550,000 tpa biofuels facility is being explored, where hydrogen made from renewable resources and bio-feedstock, such as used cooking oils and animal fats, is turned into low-carbon fuels, such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel for road transport. Once operational, it will be one of Asia’s largest biofuels facilities, allowing Shell to provide SAF to customers in Asia and worldwide.
This is in line with Shell’s ambition to produce around 2 million tonnes of SAF a year by 2025 and have at least 10% of its global aviation fuels sales as SAF by 2030.
Shell inks deal with Neste to boost aviation biofuels supply
By Toby Hill
September 28, 2020
Shell last week announced a deal with oil refining and biofuels manufacturer Neste, which the two companies claim will significantly increase the supply and availability of sustainable jet fuel for the aviation industry.
The agreement, which comes into effect from next month, brings together Neste’s expertise in the production and supply of so-called “renewable diesel” made from a range of raw materials — such as animal fats, vegetable oils, rapeseed oil and palm oil — with Shell’s aviation arm, which supplies jet fuel around the world.
Neste’s vice president for renewable fuels, Thorsten Lange, claimed sustainable aviation biofuels offered “the only viable alternative to fossil liquid fuels for powering commercial aircraft with an immediate potential to reduce aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
SAF competing for fuel feedstocks will have negative impacts on many other sectors
The aviation industry, and its enthusiastic backers like the UK government, are keen to claim the problem of the sector’s vast carbon emissions can be solved, fairly soon, by SAF (“sustainable aviation fuels”). They agree these should not come directly from agricultural crops, competing with human food and animal fodder for land. They will instead come (as well as fuels produced using electricity) from agricultural, forestry and domestic wastes. These would be the feedstocks. But there are significant problems, so far apparently overlooked by governments etc, about competing uses for those feedstocks. There are already markets for used cooking oil, and it can all be used for animal food, or in other industries. Taking crop wastes off the land not only means lower organic matter returned to the soil, reducing its structure and fertility, but also its removal for other uses – such as for animal bedding. There are competing uses for forestry waste, such as the paper and pulp industry. Feedstocks could be used to make diesel for road vehicles, or burned to produce electricity. So if aviation wants these feedstocks, there will be competition and higher prices for other sectors. These problems should not be ignored in the mindlessly optimistic rush for the illusion of “jet zero”.
Unconvincing airline hype about large future use of so called “sustainable aviation fuels”
Airlines are falling over each other, to say how much “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” (SAF) they plan to use in future, and how this will greatly increase their carbon emissions. Ryanair says it will use 12.5% SAF by 2030; IAG says it will use 10% by 2030; easyJet says they will use SAF in the short term, but “we must avoid all resources being drawn into SAFs, which don’t fully solve the problem.” According to the European Commission, SAF currently accounts for just 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU, and without further regulation, the share is expected to reach just 2.8% by 2050. There is disagreement between low cost, short haul airlines and those flying longer routes, about whether SAF fuel quotas should apply to all flights, not only short haul. Long-haul air services departing European airports accounted for 48% of CO2 emissions from all operations in 2019, while making up just 6% of flights, according to Eurocontrol data. It is unclear what all this SAF is going to be made from. One of the very few fuels thought to genuinely be low carbon, up to now, has been used cooking oil. But it has been revealed that there is considerable fraud, with virgin palm oil (causing deforestation) being passed off as used.