Cepsa, Apical begin work on Southern Europe’s massive 2G biofuels plant

Spanish energy major Cepsa and Bio-Oils, a subsidiary of Singapore’s Apical, have commenced construction of a second-generation (2G) biofuels plant in Southern Europe, which will produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), renewable diesel (HVO) and biogas.

Courtesy of Cepsa

Biogas is a fundamental raw material for the production of green hydrogen, Cepsa noted, adding that biogenic CO2, which is essential for the production of green methanol to decarbonize maritime transport, is another product captured from its treatment.

According to Cepsa, the new facility, whose start-up is planned for 2026, will be built in Palos de la Frontera (Huelva), next to La Rábida Energy Park, and its development involves a €1.2-billion investment and the creation of 2,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction and operation phases.

Cepsa said that the plant, along with the existing facilities operated by Cepsa and Bio-Oils in Huelva, Spain, will form the second-largest renewable fuel complex in Europe with a total production capacity of 1 million tons per annum and will have a minimal environmental impact:

“Thanks to the consumption of renewable hydrogen, 100% renewable electricity and different heat recovery and energy efficiency systems, this facility will emit 75% less CO2 than a traditional biofuel plant and is designed to achieve net zero emissions in the medium term. Likewise, it will not consume fresh water, but will only use reclaimed water, and its water emissions will have a minimal impact on the ecosystem thanks to a powerful water treatment plant. The facility will also be digitally native and will incorporate the latest advances for the industry in artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT) and data analysis.”

As per Cepsa, the initial work for the development of the facilities will focus on earthmoving and land improvements, urbanization and infrastructure foundation, as well as the start of marine construction at the southern pier of the Port of Huelva given that the project also encompasses the development of auxiliary facilities in the port necessary for its operation.

The new plant will secure the majority of its raw material supply from organic waste such as agricultural waste and used cooking oils through a long-term agreement with Apical, Cepsa added.

Maarten Wetselaar, CEO of Cepsa, commented: “Today we are breaking ground on our second-generation biofuels plant, the first major milestone of our Positive Motion strategy. This strategic project for Spain and Andalusia will make us a European benchmark in the field of green molecules and facilitate the immediate decarbonization of sectors that cannot run on electrons, like aviation. This is the start of a new chapter for Cepsa and this region that will generate quality employment and a new era of industrialization.”

Pratheepan Karunagaran, Executive Director of Apical, noted: “The global production of SAF is expected to triple in 2024, compared to the 2023 levels, reaching 1.5 million tons. Yet, the availability of sustainably available feedstock remains a challenge for many countries. As we continue to expand Apical’s global footprint and capacities, the availability of waste and residue is set to grow in tandem, enabling value-added partnerships to be forged for our waste stream to drive the production and adoption of SAF. Our 2G biofuels plant with Cepsa, which will be the largest aviation fuel processing facility in southern Europe, is an excellent example of how industry players can come together to unlock the potential of SAF and scale up adoption in an affordable manner.”

To note, Cepsa sees biofuels as a present-day solution to accelerate the decarbonization of transportation, and as part of its 2030 Positive Motion strategy, the company said it is driving the development of an ecosystem focused on accelerating its own decarbonization and that of its customers through the production of green molecules, mainly renewable hydrogen (and its derivatives) and 2G biofuels.

The creation of one of the largest renewable fuel complexes in Europe is part of the company’s goal of leading 2G biofuel production in Spain and Portugal, Cepsa pointed out, adding that under that plan, the company is developing an annual production capacity of 2.5 million tons of biofuels this decade.

As for Cepsa’s other recent endeavours, in December 2023, the company teamed up with Maersk-backed methanol developing and producing company C2X to develop a green methanol plant in the port of Huelva. This project aims to reach an estimated annual production capacity of 300,000 tons of green methanol, which Cepsa calculates would prevent the emission of up to 1 million tons of CO2.

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