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Petrobras tests B24 marine biofuel

Photo: Petrobras

Petrobras announced June 28 that it has begun testing the performance of bunker fuel with 24 percent renewable content by volume.

It is being used to fuel a ship, located at the Rio Grande Terminal in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul (RS) and chartered by the company Transpetro.

The estimated percentage reduction in greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions would be around 17 percent by volume, compared to standard petroleum bunker fuel, based on a preliminary analysis of the complete lifecycle of the product.

It is the second test by the company on this type. However, this time, the percentage of biodiesel is higher than in the first test, when the percentage was 10 percent by volume.

The renewable portion of the fuel was produced from 30 percent animal fat (tallow), by volume, plus 70 percent from soybean oil.

According to Claudio Schlosser, Petrobras’ director of logistics, commercialization and markets, the progress with the testing of marine biofuel shows how the company is taking a clear position.

“We are currently investing in new products that will bring environmental benefits for society,” Schlosser said. “The results from the first test, where we mixed bunker fuel with 10 percent renewables, indicated that there was scope to increase the percentage. Now that 24 percent of the fuel is biodiesel, we can show that the energy transition is definitely on Petrobras’ agenda.”

Maurício Tolmasquim, the director of energy transition and sustainability, added, “This test is increasing the number of options we can offer our customers that will allow them to achieve decarbonization and diversify our product portfolio. The marine-fuel industry is looking for quick wins that we can provide.”

For Carlos Travassos, Petrobras’ director of engineering, technology and innovation, advanced biofuels stand out as one of the best options to replace fossil fuels in the maritime-transport industry, especially long haul, since the issues with electrification in this area are more significant.

“In the coming decades, these biofuels could provide an important competitive advantage for Brazil, not just because we have the land and agricultural production to supply them, but also due to Petrobras’ proven ability, through its research center, to develop technology that makes the most of the qualities of the region and utilizes existing infrastructure,” Travassos said.

The vessel has been filled with around 151,370 gallons of fuel.

The operation took place at the Transpetro terminal (Terig), in the city of Rio Grande.

The vessel is chartered by Petrobras from Maersk Tankers and is used on cabotage routes along the Brazilian coast.

Over the next few months, the ship’s data will be monitored, including consumption, power produced and distance traveled, along with how the fuel performs in relation to the filters and purification systems.

According to Sérgio Bacci, the president of Transpetro, the company is supportive of Petrobras in its development of a more sustainable generation of products.

“Transpetro is working with Petrobras to test the bunker fuel with renewable content,” Bacci said. “We are working to make these unprecedented operations possible in Brazil because we are committed to working with our parent company to establish the energy transition for our future. Transpetro excels in innovation and is the only oil- and derivatives-logistics company in all of Latin America that is capable of providing sustainable solutions like this.”

The formulation is based on a mixture of petroleum bunker fuel and biodiesel produced by Petrobras Biocombustível (PBio) at the Montes Claros Plant in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.

For Rodrigo Pimentel Leão, the president of PBio, “The current test is testimony to the ability of our different areas to work together. PBio has shown that it is committed to developing products with less carbon by producing the biodiesel for the vessel.”

The first test carried out by Petrobras lasted 40 days, between December 2022 and February 2023. During this time, the vessel, Darcy Ribeiro, owned by Transpetro, used more than 80,000 gallons of a mixture of bunker fuel and 10 percent biodiesel, by volume.

The results did not indicate any abnormalities in the running of the engine, nor in the fuel-treatment systems (centrifuges and filters).

The operational parameters, the fuel-quality analysis and the stability of the mixture indicated that the product was viable and there was scope for further testing of greater percentages of renewables with the bunker fuel.

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