UK oil major backs new waste-to-jet-fuel plant

Essar Oil UK Limited, which produces more than 16% of the UK's transport fuels, has announced a new joint project to bring a waste-to-jet-fuel plant online near Liverpool.

Pictured: An artist's impression of the finished facility, which could begin operating by 2025 

Pictured: An artist's impression of the finished facility, which could begin operating by 2025 

The downstream energy major, via its subsidiary Stanlow Terminals Limited, has partnered with alternative fuel innovation firm Fulcrum BioEnergy Limited on the plans for the new bio-refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

Plans detail how the facility will convert pre-processed, non-recyclable household waste into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using the technologies and processes developed by Fulcrum. The facility could produce 100 million litres of SAF every year.

While Fulcrum provides the technology, which is coming online in a commercial setting for the first time this year in the US, Essar will assist with the blending and supply of the SAF to airlines. Current international jet fuel specifications permit blends of up to 50% biofuel.  Essar will use direct pipeline access to pump and transport the SAF through the Manchester Jet Line and the UK Oil Pipeline network (UKOP).

The fuel production facility could come online in 2025 if the planning process runs smoothly. Essar and Fulcum claim that the project will create 800 full-time-equivalent direct and indirect jobs during the design, build and commissioning process and some 100 permanent roles to support plant operations. It is also forecasting that the project will attract £600m of investment.

Aside from the employment and innovation opportunities for the local economy, the project partners see significant and scalable environmental benefits. Fulcrum claims that the life-cycle carbon emissions of the fuels produced will be 70% lower than for traditional jet fuels. Moreover, the SAF produces 90% fewer particulates linked to air pollution across its lifecycle.

“We are excited to be announcing this project, located within one of the UK’s most important energy-producing assets, which will help reduce the burden on landfills and industry’s reliance on fossil fuels,” Fulcrum’s managing director for the UK & Europe Jeff Ovens said.

“Utilising the world-class facilities available at Essar, including the impressive jet fuel storage facility at Stanlow Terminals Limited and direct pipeline to UK airports, Fulcrum, along with its current and future investors, will be able to build and operate its facility more efficiently and sets the ‘gold standard’ for SAF production by fully integrating its new, low carbon fuel technology directly within an existing refinery.”

The announcement comes shortly after Shell pulled out of a separate joint venture to develop a low-carbon aviation fuel plant in North East Lincolnshire, spearheaded by fuel developer Velocys.

Shell said in a statement in January that it was exiting the project after agreeing to jointly fund another plant in Canada, which developers claim could produce more than double the fuel using less than half the waste. Velocys had secured planning permission and had been hoping to begin construction in 2022 and production in 2025, but Shell’s departure could leave a funding gap.

Low-carbon industrial clusters

The UK Government has committed to bringing at least one net-zero industrial cluster online by 2040 and Essar’s Stanlow site is in the running to be first. It is planning to host blue hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure as well as SAF facilities, as well as technologies to reduce and capture emissions from its diesel, petrol and chemicals facilities at the site.

Essar’s hydrogen facilities will form part of HyNet North West – a hydrogen infrastructure network spanning Manchester, Liverpool, Chester and the surrounding areas. The first phase is due for completion in 2026 and full completion should be confirmed in 2035.

Elsewhere, other major government-backed net-zero industrial cluster projects are underway in locations including Teesside, Humberside and South Wales. The Teeside project is being backed by businesses including BP, Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total. Equinor is also a key participant in the Humber project, alongside Drax and National Grid.

Sarah George



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