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Sweden Takes the Lead in Biofuel-Use in Europe

Submitted by on May 20, 2016 – 3:35 pmNo Comment

by Tomas Ekbom (Task 39 May 2016 Newsletter)  The production and use of biofuels in Sweden have increased substantially since the mid-2000s. According to preliminary statistics from SPBI, the share of renewable energy in the road sector was 14.7% in 2015 based on energy content (Figure 1). If the calculation is made according to the Renewable Energy Directive’s (RED) calculation methodology the share is estimated at about 23%.

Sweden currently has the largest share of biofuels in the transport sector in Europe (tied with Finland) according to the RED calculation rules and in terms of actual energy content. Sweden stands out compared to the rest of the EU because increased biofuels consumption consists of both the low- and high-blends (neat fuels). The use of biogas in the automotive sector is also larger in Sweden than in other EU countries.

There are two types of biodiesel in the Swedish market today, FAME and HVO. HVO is short for hydrogenated vegetable oil and can be made of various types of oilseeds such as rapeseed, sunflower, soybean and palm. HVO can also be produced from tall oil, which is a waste product from the forest products industry. As technology has progressed, several different types of raw materials have been used successfully to produce HVO. It is also possible to manufacture HVO from rendered animal fats.
HVO is a drop-in fuel and thus functionally similar to fossil diesel. It can be used in the current distribution and refuelling infrastructure without needing to make any additional investments. HVO can be produced in oil refineries because there are most likely already hydrogenation processes there. However, it may require some additional investments to develop new HVO production capacity.

Neste has three HVO production facilities, one each in Finland, Singapore and the Netherlands.

The distribution of HVO to private consumers takes place mainly by fuel companies Preem, Statoil, OKQ8 and St1.

FAME stands for fatty acid methyl esters and FAME biodiesel can be made from various types of oilseeds such as rapeseed, sunflower, soybean and palm. It is also possible to produce FAME biofuels from animal fats and vegetable and animal waste oils. In Sweden, it is common to use rapeseed oil in production. Rapeseed oil has thermal properties that make it suitable for the Swedish climate. This particular kind of FAME biodiesel is rape methyl ester or RME produced through a chemical process in which rapeseed oil is reacted with methanol to form RME, producing glycerol as a by-product. Methanol can be from fossil origin or produced from biomass. In cases where the methanol input chemical to the RME process is renewable-based, the end product RME is regarded as 100% renewable.

There are two companies in Sweden that produce FAME at a larger scale, Perstorp BioProducts AB in Stenungsund and Ecobränsle AB in Karlshamn. There are also a number of smaller companies in the agricultural industry which produce relatively small amounts of FAME fuel.

B100 is primarily used by heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks and buses. FAME is basically blended in all fossil diesel sold at public filling stations. In 2014, the average blend level was about 5.5%. B100 is mainly sold directly by the producer to the customer, but the product is also available at a smaller number of fuel stations. B100 has become an important fuel for the bus industry. In 2014 nearly 17% of the Swedish bus fleet was fuelled with RME.

The FAME which is imported into Sweden comes mainly from Lithuania and Germany. Imports from Germany has decreased significantly in 2013 but increased again in 2014. Exports in comparison are very small, and mainly are to Italy and the U.K.

Ethanol is blended in principle in all 95 octane petrol and in some volumes of 98 octane petrol and also sold in high-blend as E85 (85% ethanol in petrol) and ED95 (95% ethanol with 5% ignition improvers).

There are three producers of fuel ethanol in Sweden today, Lantmännen Agroetanol, Domsjö Fabriker and St1.

Lantmännen Agroetanol produce ethanol by fermenting grain which largely comes from Swedish farmers. In 2014, one of the two production lines was closed, lowering the production capacity from 230 000 m3 per year. In the second half of 2014, investments were made in a new plant to process residues from food and food waste. During 2015-2016, an estimated 17 000 tonnes of food residues will replace an equal amount of grain raw material. The company is also working to expand the raw material base further to include straw and sawdust.

In 2014, St1 Biofuels Oy delivered Etanolix, a plant for the production of bioethanol, to North European Oil Trade Oy in Gothenburg. Residual products from bakeries and the like are used as feedstock, e.g., bread from grocery stores that has passed its expiration date.

In principle, all the petrol sold at fuel stations in Sweden contains about 5% by volume ethanol.

Biogas produced and sold for the transport sector is called “Fordonsgas” in Sweden. Biogas produced with anaerobic digestion contains a large share of carbon dioxide and small share of sulphur compounds. This raw biogas can be upgraded to nearly pure methane biogas (about 98% by volume) and then used as a gaseous vehicle fuel, Fordonsgas.

A general commitment within the industry in Sweden is that vehicle gas must always contain at least 50% biogas.

The upward trend is partly due to more and more municipalities choosing to invest in Fordonsgas as the fuel for local and regional buses and delivery vehicles and the increased availability of new filling stations. The increased use also correlates to an increase in the biogas vehicle fleet.

For the past three years liquid biogas has started to be used both as bunker fuel for shipping and truck fuel by road.

SEKAB recently announced a cooperation project with Preem and Sveaskog (state-owned forest owner) to develop and evaluate conversion of wood residues like sawdust and grot (branches and tops), even straw, to biobased petrol components together with a French company. The process is based on the fractionation of wood-based raw materials to a cellulose based sugar solution using CelluAPP technology, followed by fermentation and thermochemical conversion to two platforms for biofuels, iso-butene and iso-butanol. Based on these platforms, the production of iso-octane, one of the naturally occurring chemicals in petrol, will be studied.

To remove the lignin and convert it to biofuels creates a similar synergy that already exists between the pulp industry and refinery industry with tall oil, but the resource is significantly larger.

The separated lignin can then be converted to a lignin oil with different process technologies (including pyrolysis) and catalysts. The lignin oil represents an intermediate product, which can be further processed using various refinery processes into petrol and diesel components. The black liquor can also be gasified directly as shown with the Chemrec black liquor gasification process demonstrated in Piteå.

The Gothenburg Biomass Gasification Project, GoBiGas, is Göteborg Energi’s largest investment in biogas production (biomethane or Bio-SNG) through gasification of solid biofuels and forestry wastes.  READ MORE

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