PKN ORLEN invests in biofuels of the future

​PKN ORLEN is launching an operational programme for biofuels to be based on three pillars – building biofuel production facilities, research and development work and operational adaptation of the logistics function.

With its biofuels programme, the Company is preparing for the new renewable energy directive (RED II), which gives more prominence to second-generation biofuels made from algae, straw and other waste materials.

“We expect the role of renewable energy in the transport sector to rise, and we consider RED II a key driver of the fuels market in the future. We are intent on preparing our business for these changes as best we can. By implementing the operational programme for biofuels, we are proactively responding to the challenges to be posed by the new regulations between 2020 and 2025,” says Armen Artwich, Member of the Management Board of PKN ORLEN for Corporate Affairs.

PKN ORLEN intends to use its existing refinery units in Płock and Litvínov to take the co-hydrotreatment process to an industrial scale. The process consists of co-feeding vegetable oils or used fats with petroleum distillates into refinery units. The output diesel oil contains a bio-component – hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO). The bio-component will complement esters used in diesel oil, which will continue to be used extensively, up to the limit imposed by fuel quality standards.

The decision to take the co-hydrotreatment process to an industrial scale was prompted by the successful completion of a test run carried out in September 2018 under the CO-BIO project, partly financed with a grant under the Inno-Chem programme. Based on its experience with co-hydrotreatment of vegetable oils on an industrial scale and taking into account the manner of transposing RED II into national law, ORLEN will decide whether to build a standalone HVO unit by 2020. Also, a project to build a unit for the production of bioethanol from cellulosic materials and other technologies for the production of advanced bio-components are being analysed.

In order to go ahead with its biofuel scale-up programme, PKN ORLEN will need to adapt its refineries to receive the new component and to organise raw material supply logistics.

The Company is also building up its knowledge of the renewable fuels market, which is expected to gain prominence by 2030. The Company’s interest in biofuels focuses on the use of waste materials to make renewable fuels, which is in line with the wider trend of closing the raw materials loop (circular economy).

The planned research and development work will include pre-implementation tasks covering fuels with higher levels of bio-components, as well as research proper that will put PKN ORLEN on track to make further advances in products and technologies.