Attentive to new opportunities in terms of efficiency and aligned with society’s demands, we are ready to introduce a new type of biofuel in Brazil: Renewable diesel fuel. We are already able deploy a technology capable of processing petroleum diesel blended with plant oil or animal fat at our refineries. The product resulting from this blend is Diesel RX, whose percentage of renewable diesel can be 5% (Diesel R5), 12% (Diesel R12), or even higher.
Renewable diesel fuel is recognized as an advanced biofuel, one that compared to the ester biodiesel currently blended with petroleum diesel reduces pollutant emissions and improves engine performance. In addition, it increases competition in the biofuels segment, potentially benefiting consumers. Renewable diesel is the fastest growing biofuel in the world.
This way of producing a diesel fuel blend with renewable content, although unprecedented in the country, is used in Europe and the United States, and accounts for 15% of the total production of renewable diesel. And there is little left to be done until it can be marketed on the national territory. Today, the diesel fuel circulating in the country contains, by law, 12% renewable content derived from ester-based biodiesel that distributors blend with mineral diesel. There is a proposal under discussion that seeks to allow renewable diesel to be used as part of this mandatory 12% portion. The mandatory percentage is expected to increase to 15% in 2023, also by legal determination.
Advantages of renewable diesel
Renewable diesel is a product that is chemically identical to that which derives from oil, but with content of plant or animal origin in its composition. Although it can be produced with some of the same raw materials as ester-based biodiesel, such as plant oils and animal fat, renewable diesel is produced by means of a more modern process, called hydrogenation, and gives rise to a technically superior product.
It is a contaminant-free product, with greater thermal and oxidative stability, thus ensuring fewer issues in storage and in its use in diesel engines. Therefore, it minimizes damage to engines, such as filter, pump, and injector clogging, which, in practice, increases the useful life of vehicles and reduces transportation costs. Renewable diesel also has a high cetane number, which improves combustion quality in the engine. Its similarity to mineral diesel fuel means that it does not cause incompatibility issues with the existing infrastructure and with the engines of existing vehicles.
Renewable diesel also benefits the environment. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 15% compared to biodiesel ester, considering the same plant oil of origin. The reason for this is because the biodiesel ester is produced by the reaction of the renewable raw material with methanol - a product of fossil origin, which reduces its contribution to the decarbonization of the environment.
A more important benefit for air quality is that renewable diesel is fully compatible with cutting-edge vehicle technologies, since it has no metallic contaminants. These technologies, which are already in use in the United States and Europe, allow a reduction in local pollutant emissions, such as of particulate material and nitrogen oxides. The new phase of the Brazilian emissions legislation, phase P8 of PROCONVE (Air Pollution Control Program for Motor Vehicles), will be introduced in Brazil in 2022/2023 and will require the same emission limits used in the United States and Europe. Due to metallic contaminants, there is a maximum limit for ester biodiesel in road diesel fuel in Europe (7%) and in the United States (5%) for diesel fuel marketed for transportation.
For consumers, the advantages go beyond extending engine useful life and reducing emissions: A very relevant aspect is the possibility of increasing competition on the market, currently occupied exclusively by ester-based biodiesel, and this may potentially benefit the final composition of diesel fuel prices at fuel stations.
The incorporation of renewable currents into the energy matrix by means of the joint processing of plant oil with petroleum diesel offers yet another advantage: How quickly it can be deployed. A few of Petrobras’ refineries are already equipped to use raw materials of plant or animal origin to produce renewable diesel. And the others are in the process of adaptation. An example of this is that large-scale production tests have been carried out successfully at the Presidente Getúlio Vargas Refinery (Repar), in Araucária, Paraná.