Refueling the energy transition

Source: Fluor Canada

As countries strive to meet the ever-descending carbon emission targets, the use of ‘ready-now’ technologies are key to the energy transition – that is, technologies that can be deployed quickly, use existing infrastructure, and make a measurable impact.

Fluor is collaborating with numerous clients to assess actionable projects within energy transition. A current focus for clients is in renewable liquid fuels such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel (RD), including the recently announced facility by Refuel Energy Inc. (Refuel). The SAF and RD are produced via proven refinery processes and are chemically analogous to their petroleum-derived counterparts. This makes them both ‘drop-in’ fuels that can be deployed quickly without costly modifications to existing infrastructure or end users. 

From a carbon emission perspective, the primary benefit of renewable liquid fuels is that the feedstock is from plant-derived oils, animal fats or greases. Using energy from the sun, plants essentially trap the carbon dioxide (CO2); through refining, this energy and carbon is transformed into renewable liquid fuels. This leads to significantly reduced CO2 emissions on an overall lifecycle basis as the carbon is biogenic in nature, follows a more circular and sustainable path; therefore reducing life cycle CO2 emissions for the end users by up to 80 per cent. 

There are a few different licensors that provide technologies to produce renewable liquid fuels. Fluor has process subject matter experts (SME) that understand the technology and maintain technical relationships with all the major technology licensors. SME knowledge is crucial to tailor the design to meet the project-specific requirements and needs of project developers. Fluor is currently executing both front-end engineering and design (FEED) and detailed design on renewable diesel projects in Canada, demonstrating that this technology is both mature and commercially viable. The process technology for renewable liquid fuels is quite similar to that of refineries, and therefore fits very well within existing skillsets for engineers, fabricators, supply chain professionals, and tradespeople working in the refining industry. 

Fluor has been executing energy projects in Canada for more than 70 years, including studies and FEEDs as well as full engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) of projects. This depth and breadth of knowledge comes with an understanding of the nuances of Canadian design (e.g., cold-weather execution, logistics, regulatory) and an ability to identify key decisions that need to be made during FEED in an effort to achieve success during the EPC phase. Designing and building world-class industrial facilities comes with unique challenges; the project teams at Fluor leverage real-time information from active large-scale projects both in Canada and around the world to develop execution strategies that overcome those challenges. 

Fluor’s knowledge and experience for fabrication and construction extends well beyond providing engineering drawings to a construction contractor. In Canada, we have executed more than 49 million field hours as well as designed and placed over 1,600 modules. This understanding of the construction contractor’s needs is now baked into Fluor’s work processes, so that the construction contractor has a seat at the table early in the design process. This fabrication and construction input is an essential element of execution planning, and is therefore incorporated into the baseline estimate, which supports cost and schedule certainty. 

“Fluor’s involvement in this project underscores our ongoing commitment to helping clients deliver sustainable and lower carbon energy,” says Mark Brown, vice-president & general manager, Fluor Canada. “By combining Fluor’s global expertise in renewables engineering and construction with the company’s extensive local knowledge, Fluor is able to provide a solution that supports Refuel’s mission of delivering a sustainable fossil fuel alternative that not only helps lower emissions but will also generate local economic opportunity.” 

When Refuel approached Fluor regarding a 3,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) renewable liquid fuel facility in Ontario, they were looking for a knowledgeable partner to help them bring this technology to fruition. The proposed facility, Refuel YYZ, will produce both SAF and RD. From a process technology perspective, Refuel selected Topsoe’s proprietary HydroFlexTM and H2bridgeTM for this state-of-the-art facility. Fluor has a long-standing working relationship with Topsoe and is currently executing renewableuel projects that use their technology, which makes Refuel YYZ an ideal fit. 

Regarding the facility’s feedstock, Refuel is seeking operational flexibility, as this enables them to respond to local market opportunities. By using existing feedstocks such as waste fats, oils, and greases (FOG) as well as regionally-sourced used cooking oil, animal fats and non-edible crop oil, they can produce renewable liquid fuel competitively and sustainably. Fluor will work closely with Refuel to select the pre-treatment technology that provides the desired flexibility while still meeting Topsoe’s requirements for a feed into the RD and SAF facility. 

From an execution perspective, Refuel is evaluating site options including availability of utilities and waste processing, as this is a critical integration piece with the Topsoe technology package. Fluor will assist Refuel with this activity by developing plot plan and site plan options to fit within the proposed sites and by leveraging learnings from active renewable fuels projects. The proposed fabrication and construction strategy is to engage with local Southern Ontario fabricators and construction contractors who are familiar with area. By applying this strategy, the local community will benefit through fabrication and construction jobs, as well as the follow-on operational roles.  

“Refuel YYZ is the prime example of a project that is good for both the environment and the local community we will be operating in,” says Zohrab Mawani, Founder and CEO of Refuel. “By leveraging local constructors, suppliers and general labor force, we will not only ensure the successful execution of the project, but establish ourselves as an integral part of the community.” 

Refuel’s vision to build a renewable fuels facility in Southern Ontario is an excellent opportunity to support Canada’s energy transition to net zero. Fluor’s extensive experience designing and building projects in Canada will ensure the project is setup for success, and Topsoe’s renewable fuel technology package is a fit with Refuel’s specific needs. The project itself is well-positioned to benefit the local community through providing an actionable path to CO2 emissions reductions along with local employment opportunities.

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